The holiday message from the council on compulsive gambling of NJ and the NJ Lottery is this: don’t give kids lottery tickets. The theory is that the earlier they start gambling by playing with lottery tickets, the more likely they are to have gambling addictions when they get older. I think this is a huge leap.

According to acting Lottery director James Carey, kids cannot process gambling correctly. He says, “Adults can recognize that a winning Lottery ticket is a stroke of luck, a random chance, but kids and teens have difficulty putting a win into perspective," he said. "They do not understand how gambling works.” Here’s the problem I have with that statement: While children don’t necessarily understand gambling for a monetary reward, they learn gambling every time they roll dice in monopoly, spin the wheel in the game of “Life” or pop the little bubble in the “Trouble” board. Not to mention the tickets that spit out of a skee ball machine or an arcade game. Even your innocent home bingo game is a stepping stone to gambling once the B-4’s, N-40’s and O-61’s are rolled around and randomly ejected.

Just because the prize isn’t money, the anticipation is the same, the luck of the draw is the same and the thrill of winning is the same. While it’s true that tickets aren’t money, they can translate to prizes-which to kids are better than cash— at arcades like Dave and Buster’s and the like. While they ain’t craps, rolling dice or flicking a spinner and landing on go-to-jail or free parking are just as much games of chance as scratching off lottery tickets are. What’s more, scratch off lottery tickets have colorful themes and kid-friendly designs that are just like the board games they happily play at home on family game night. So what’s the difference? A kid who could be attracted to gambling is getting his first taste of it from the first time he plays a kids game. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Life is a gamble. A kid’s gonna figure that out whether he scratches that ticket or not.

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