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Health Agency campaigns to end illegal youth gambling and addiction

The Plumas County Public Health Agency is working to head off a problem before it gets a start with local youth — underage gambling.

“Children very much do have access to gambling,” said PCPHA Health Education Specialist Nicole Reinert while she staffed an information table at the county’s first Youth Summit on April 13. “With a VISA gift card, they can go online and place a bet on a sports event.”

She said adults might be surprised to know how easy it is for young people to walk in a retail establishment and press a button to buy a lotto scratcher ticket.

Gambling hooks underage users at rates that concern PCPHA and other health officials. The average reported age of the first time young people have gambled or bet is 11 years old, Reinert commented.

Between 60 and 80 percent of high school students nationwide report having gambled for money during the past year. High school students appear to have twice the rate of gambling problems that adults do in our country, according to national statistics.

“An estimated 4 to 7 percent of teens (today) display addictive gambling problems,” Reinert explained. “We are reaching out to the community, to parents and to merchants for help.”

Reinert is part of a team of health intervention and education professionals who are combating teen addiction on a number of fronts, including gambling, substance abuse and tobacco use (especially the escalation in vaping with electronic cigarettes).

The agency and its “Friday Night Live” army of FNL student volunteers from area high schools sponsored the informative Youth Summit. Held in Pioneer Park at the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds, the event is the first of what PCPHA hopes will be many activities to bring their positive outreach messages directly to kids in a casual environment where questions are encouraged.

“These programs are so empowering,” Reinert said. “The kids know and feel like they’re making a difference.”

Commending the nearly 100 students who are members of Friday Night Live clubs at Chester, Greenville, Portola and Quincy high schools, Reinert said PCPHA has launched a new anti-gambling “Betting on Our Future” campaign that will start with a focus on Portola merchants this spring.

The campaign aims to educate merchants and lottery game retailers about state laws and establishing safeguards to assure that lottery ticket sales are not made to persons under age 18.

The campaign also features a “Not on My Watch” pledge that parents can make to support efforts to keep lottery tickets and other forms of gambling out of the hands of students under 18.

For more information, contact Nicole Reinert, PCPHA at [email protected] or call 283-6990.

Take the Parents Pledge

“Not on My Watch”

I, ______________________, am taking a stand.

I am a supporter of the Not on My Watch movement. I support the right of my kid and all kids to enjoy a life without underage gambling. I will support our community and the citizens, families, schools and businesses that make up our community as we free our youth from the problems caused by underage gambling.

__ I will not purchase for, or provide, lottery tickets to minors.

__ I will not allow underage gambling in my home.

__ I will support retailers that support the Not on My Watch movement.

I am saying Not on My Watch to underage gambling.

Betting on Our Future Campaign

Selling Tickets: Any person who knowingly sells a ticket or share in a lottery game to a person under 18 is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Buying Tickets: Any person under the age of 18 who buys a ticket or share in a lottery is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Paying Prizes: No prize shall be paid to any person under the age of 18 years. Any person who knowingly claims or attempts to claim a prize with a ticket or share purchased by a person under the age of 18 is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Source: California Government Code

Signs of a teen gambling problem

– Begins to sell personal belongings.

– Borrows money from friends and family without repaying it.

– Steals and lies.

– Has a large amount of money or debt that cannot be explained.

– Strangers call on the phone with increasing frequency.

– Withdraws from regular social activities.

– Makes “900-number” calls to gambling entities.

– Appears distracted, moody or depressed.

– Regularly breaks curfew.

– Is obsessed with sports scores (beyond what you think is normal for your teen).

For help, information and volunteer opportunities, contact: Nicole Reinert, PCPHA at [email protected] or call 283-6990.

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