You may have heard it before, “Gambling is Not Child’s Play”.

Christmas stockings hung by a fireplace

Lottery and scratch-off tickets can be fun and exciting for many, but they are not suitable for children and teens. Youth gambling harms are a known public health problem.

The International Center for Youth Gambling Problems & High-Risk Behavior (McGill University) supports the GIFT RESPONSIBLY CAMPAIGN designed to achieve three goals:

  1. Educate communities on the dangers of buying lottery tickets for children.
  2. Raise awareness about the risks of youth gambling. 
  3. Support responsible gambling practices while remaining neutral about legalized gambling. 

According to research done by Canadians at the Center, early childhood gambling experiences can be a risk factor for problem gambling later in life. 

Gambling exposure during childhood is often through some type of lottery product gifted by an adult who is unaware of the risks posed to youth. Children who gamble before the age of 12 are at greater risk to develop a gambling problem. 

Lottery scratch-off tickets are a possible gateway to other gambling activities. Adults are encouraged to NOT give lottery tickets as gifts to those under legal gambling age. 

Surveys report that varying percentages of school-age youth gamble for money, currently have a problem with gambling, and are at risk for developing a problem with gambling.

A parent, guardian or youth leader who wants to know how to determine if a youth has a gambling issue can check a reliable source such as

Youth are at much higher risk of gambling problems than adults. In many instances the problems are more hidden in youth than in adults even though gambling is regarded as a hidden addiction among adults. 

It is also important to note, research shows that kids who gamble are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, including using alcohol and tobacco, criminal activity, and violent behavior.

Instead of lottery tickets, try some of these stocking stuffers for kids & teens!

  • Puzzle and picture books
  • Playing cards
  • Travel-size checkers
  • Hairbows and headbands
  • Candy, nuts, or dried fruit
  • Gift cards or money
  • Journal and fun writing utensils
  • Small books
  • Nail polish
  • Lotion and bubble bath 
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Mugs and reusable bottles
  • And of course, everyone's favorite, socks!

Related article: Gambling and the holidays

Call the PEI Gambling Support phone line at 1-855-255-4255 (toll-free) to speak with a trained professional who can provide a variety of supportive services such as, information about in-person counselling through Addiction Services, Gamblers Anonymous meetings, SMART Recovery meetings, and other resources. Callers may also choose to be referred to local Addiction Services for counselling.