Minnesota Youth Gambling Fact Sheet

Based upon the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey

What is Gambling?
Gambling refers to betting money or something else of value so that you can win or gain money or something else.

How many Minnesota youth gamble?

• 30% have gambled in the past year (39% of boys; 21% of girls).
• 7% gambled frequently, that is, once a week or more often (10% of boys; 3% of girls)

What forms of gambling are most popular?

  • 35% of boys and 17% of girls bet on informal games such as cards, sports, or games of personal skill such as video gaming, pool, golf, or bowling
  • 8% of boys and 7% of girls report buying lottery tickets or scratch-offs 3% of boys and 1% of girls report gambling in a casino

Which youth gamble?

  • More boys gamble than girls ((38.5% versus 21.1%)
  • More boys gambled frequently than girls (9.7% versus 3.4%
  • More boys experience problem gambling than girls (0.9% versus 0.2%) About the same proportion of older students gamble as younger students
  • More Native Hawaiian or other South Pacific Island (13.3%), American Indian (11.9%) and Black (11%) students gamble frequently than White (5.7%), Asian (6.2%), multiple races (7%), and Hispanic students (8.6%)
  • More students from low income households (receive free or reduced price lunch) gamble frequently (8.3%) than from higher income households (5.6%)
  • More students who report grades of D, F and incomplete gamble frequently (12%) than students who report grades of A, B and C (6%)


  • Fewer students were gambling in 2019 than were gambling in 1992 (84% of boys in 1992 versus 39% in 2019; and 62% of girls in 1992 to 21% in 2019)
  • Fewer students were gambling frequently in 2019 than were gambling frequently in 1992 (23% of boys in 1992 versus 10% in 2019; and 6% of girls in 1992 to 3% in 2019)
  • Fewer underage students reported buying lottery products in 2019 than in 1992 (43% of boys in 1992 versus 8% in 2019; and 38% of girls in 1992 versus 7% in 2019)
  • No change in the problem gambling rate (0.5%) between 2016 and 2019
  • For the majority of students, gambling participation has turned around since gambling items were included in the MSS in 1992, when gambling participation rates were 70% and now in 2019 that is the figure for not gambling.

What is Problem Gambling?
Problem Gambling is gambling that interferes with a person’s life including relationships and responsibilities. Cardinal signs are preoccupation with gambling; and loss of control of one’s gambling (e.g., continued gambling in spite of adverse consequences gambling). Other signs of problem gambling include hiding the evidence of gambling; feeling bad about one’s gambling; and skipping out on family and friends in order to gamble.

How many Minnesota youth experience problem gambling?

  • 0.5% or one half of one percent with an additional 2% who report problems associated with their gambling.
  • While one half of one percent may not seem like much, if you multiply that by the number of Minnesota public secondary students (403,331) it represents over 2,000 students.
  • There is a small segment of the youth population that gambles frequently and experience problems associated with their gambling and these youth may need prevention and intervention services.

Prepared on behave of Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance by:
Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D.
Retired from Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota Medical School E-mail: stinc001@umn.edu

If your children are gambling — but not using drugs, smoking or drinking ­— you may think there’s no reason to be concerned. But given that gambling can become an addiction — and is statistically more likely the younger a person first gambles — you should be.

Gambling is not a safe alternative to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. While most people can gamble safely, for some it can become an addiction that’s devastating to both the gambler and their family. 

Here are some things you should know about gambling:

  • Gambling addiction is a disease that can affect anyone
  • People with a gambling problem may spend money they can’t afford to lose
  • People with gambling problems might spend excessive amounts of time gambling
  • A gambling problem can affect many parts of someone’s life, such as school, work, friendships, family relationships and hobbies
  • With the right information and help, young people and parents can overcome gambling problems
  • Children and adolescents tend to model their behavior based on behaviors of others, whether parents, friends or role models.

Source: Partners in Prevention, International Centre for Youth Gambling and Problems & High-Risk Behaviors. www.youthgambling.com

Facts and Figures about Youth Gambling

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10 to 15% of young people have significant gambling problems compared to fewer than 4% of adults. And today, more youth than ever before are developing gambling problems.

Eight percent of adolescents 12 to 17 years old are considered problem gamblers. Problem gamblers say they began gambling at about 10 years of age, on average.

A University of Minnesota survey indicated that youth are at four times the risk of adults for developing pathological (compulsive) gambling. Six percent of teens who have tried gambling develop the most severe form of gambling addiction (pathological gambling) compared to about 1.5% of adults.

Youth gambling has been shown to be linked to other risk taking and addictive behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and drug use.

Adolescents gamblers have a higher rate of depression, suicide ideation and attempts.

Males are more likely to gamble and do so more frequently. Males have higher gross wagers and have higher gross winnings.

Source: youthgambling.com


Protective Factors

  • Strong self esteem
  • School connectedness
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Strong social skills
  • Positive family cohesion and bonding
  • Connectedness to community
  • Significant relationship to an adult other than a parent

Risk Factors

  • Easy access to substance or gambling activity
  • Use among peers
  • Parental or sibling abuse of gambling
  • Family conflict, lack of parental supervision
  • Frequency of activity
  • School problems
  • Impulsivity, sensation seeking
  • Early initiation to gambling

Possible Youth Gambling Indicators

The following are signs of problem gambling that suggest counseling should be sought.

  • Gambling frequently on things like cards, dice, games, sports or online sites
  • Lying about how much was gambled
  • Gambling has become the favorite (or only) activity
  • Trouble concentrating on homework or other things (thinking about gambling)
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs
  • Borrowing or stealing money to gamble
  • Missing important events or sneaking out of them to gamble
  • Arguing with friends or family about gambling
  • Thinking that most problems would be solved by getting a big win
  • Thinking that gambling is an easy way to make money
  • Thinking that the odds can be beaten (“I am a good gambler”)
  • Making more bets, assuming that money lost can be won back
  • Feeling the need to bet more and more money