Problem Gambling

Our Priority

The Shared Future Coalition focuses on preventing substance use among adolescents. Gambling is an addictive behavior that may occur at the same time as substance misuse. Oregon 8th and 11th graders who engage in gambling behaviors are significantly more likely to report vaping, excessive alcohol use, and marijuana use.1 The human brain does not fully mature until the mid-twenties.2 The Shared Future Coalition prioritizes problem gambling prevention among 12-18 year olds in order to foster healthy brain development that can have positive impacts on health and wellbeing far into the future. Preventing problem gambling can have a positive effect on preventing adolescent substance use.

“…the earlier the exposure the greater the risk.”

Individuals who start using substances during adolecence often experience more chronic and intensive use, and they are at greater risk of developing a substance use disorder compared to those who begin use at an older age. In other words, the earlier the exposure the greater the risk.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health 2016.

Our Position

Gambling is an activity that carries risk, although not all gambling results in negative consequences. Young people under the age of 25, and other vulnerable populations, are particularly susceptible to addiction, including addiction to gambling. Gambling among high school students in the United States has been associated with lifetime substance use.3 Youth experiencing ADHD, mental health, social, and interpersonal difficulties are at higher risk for short-term and long-term negative consequences associated with problem gambling.4 Negative consequences associated with problem gambling may include both violent and non-violent behaviors such as suicide ideation, suicide attempts, self-injury, substance use, theft, cyberbullying, and depression.5 Problem gambling can be prevented.

Supporting Data

Cause for Concern

  • Problem gambling and gambling disorder are often associated with alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, or other drug use. Thoughts of suicide, and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression can be also occur alongside problem gambling or gambling disorder.5
  • One person with a gambling disorder can adversely impact 5-10 other people.6,7
  • The 2021 survey of Oregon adults indicates that during the pandemic, rates of problem gambling increased.8
  • Problematic video gaming appears to lead to problem gambling.9
  • Gambling mechanisms are present in video games and may be priming the adolescent brain for gambling.10
  • Male adolescents are more likely to engage in problem gambling behaviors than female peers.11

Cause for Hope

  • Annual rates of Deschutes County adolescent gambling (of any type) were: less than 3% for 6th and 8th graders; less than 7% for 11th graders in 2020.12
  • Building adolescent factors that prevent problem gambling can also help to decrease other potentially harmful behaviors such as substance use, suicide, and bullying.13
  • Unlike among adults, youth problem gambling behavior has not been shown to be associated with poor physical health.5
  • Greater parental disapproval of remote device/mobile gambling is related to less youth engagement in mobile gambling, a behavior that is predictive of problem gambling.14

Our Solutions

Our high level goal is to raise awareness that gambling carries risk and problem gambling can be prevented.

Many strategies designed to reduce and prevent substance use are also effective for preventing problem gambling and associated behaviors (such as excessive screen use and problem video gaming). Core elements of the Shared Future Coalition’s comprehensive prevention approach include raising awareness of adolescent brain development, social-emotional learning, healthy stress management, and effective prevention conversations between parents and youth. These strategies can also contribute to the prevention of problem gambling. The Coalition also provides specific information about problem gambling harms, warning signs, and tips for preventing problem gambling.

Example Projects

Connect Workshop for Parents

  • FREE, two-hour workshop for parents and guardians in Deschutes County to learn factual, unbiased information and skills to start conversations with their kids about substance use, gambling, and excessive screen use.

“Reflect, Resource, Renew” Media Campaign

  • Public awareness campaign that raises awareness of harms associated with gambling, resources for problem gambling services, and guidelines for responsible gambling.

Teen Community Health Advocate Instagram Page

  • Public awareness campaign that raises awareness of adolescent brain development, the harms associated with gambling, substance use, as well as mental health tips.


[1] Oregon Healthy Teen Survey: Problem Gambling Data Analysis. (2018). Oregon Health Authority.

[2] Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. (2019). The National Academies Press.

[3] Zhai, Z. W., Yip, S. W., Steinberg, M. A., Wampler, J., Hoff, R. A., Krishnan-Sarin, S., & Potenza, M. N. (2017). Relationships Between Perceived Family Gambling and Peer Gambling and Adolescent Problem Gambling and Binge-Drinking. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33(4), 1169–1185.

[4] Delfabbro, P., Thomas, A., & Armstrong, A. (2017). Gender Differences in the Presentation of Observable Risk Indicators of Problem Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 34(1), 119–132.

[5] Dingle, T., Reohr, P., Irrgang, M., & Marotta, J. (2020). Impacts of Problem Gambling on Public Health: At-risk Youth. Oregon Health Authority.

[6] Productivity Commission 2010, Gambling, Report no. 50, Canberra.

[7] Goodwin, B., Browne, M., Rockloff, M., & Rose, J. (2017). A typical problem gambler affects six others. International Gambling Studies, 17(2), 276-289.

[8] Marotta, Jeff, PhD, Yamagata, Glenn, MPhil., Irrgang, Makenzie, M.S., Reoohr, M.S. “COVID-19 Impact Survey of Adult Oregonians: Gambling, Gaming, Alcohol Use and Cannabis Use.” October 2021.

[9] Molde, H., Holmøy, B., Merkesdal, A. G., Torsheim, T., Mentzoni, R. A., Hanns, D., Sagoe, D., & Pallesen, S. (2018). Are Video Games a Gateway to Gambling? A Longitudinal Study Based on a Representative Norwegian Sample. Journal of Gambling Studies, 35(2), 545–557.

[10] Institute of Games. (2018). THE CONVERGENCE OF GAMBLING AND VIDEO GAMES: Social Casino Games, Gambling with Virtual Goods and Lootboxes. In

[11] Dingle, T., Reohr, P., Irrgang, M., & Marotta, J. (2020). Impacts of Problem Gambling on Public Health: At-risk Youth. Oregon Health Authority.

[12] Oregon Health Authority. (2020). Oregon Student Health Survey: Deschutes County. In

[13] Savolainen, I., Sirola, A., Kaakinen, M. et al. Peer Group Identification as Determinant of Youth Behavior and the Role of Perceived Social Support in Problem Gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies 35, 15–30 (2019).

[14] Zhao, Y., Marchica, L., Derevensky, J. L., & Ivoska, W. (2018). Mobile gambling among youth: A warning sign for problem gambling? Journal of Gambling Issues, 38, doi: