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Advocates warn Ohioans: don't bet on scratch-offs as good gifts for kids

Lottery tickets on display in a gas station convenience store in Columbus.
Karen Kasler

There’s a warning out for Ohioans shopping for last minute holiday gifts: don’t stuff your kids’ stockings with scratch-off lottery tickets.

The Ohio Lottery’s holiday ads show adults in pjs in a pillow fort in the living room or next to the Christmas tree, celebrating their scratch offs like kids with new toys.

But Jess Stewart with the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio said studies have shown those games are not for children.

“If you are exposed to gambling at a young age, under the age of 12, you are four times more likely to develop a gambling problem later in life," Stewart said.

Stewart, who's the vice president of the board of directors for the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, knows from personal experience. His dad took him to place sports bets when he was six. As he grew up he turned to gambling while fighting depression following the death of his mom, and he even thought of ending his life.

"Suicide is a huge risk among problem gamblers; one in five will attempt it at some point in their life or they will certainly contemplate it. I know I did," Stewart said. "And that was at the point where I basically said this is going to kill me. It's not only destroying my life, it's destroying my relationship with my wife. It's taking everything from me and what am I really getting out of it? I'm really getting nothing."

Stewart is in recovery for a gambling addiction.
Mike Buzelli with the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio said kids are already being bombarded with gambling normalization in video games and social media – but that can lead to addiction.

“There's kind of an apathetic attitude toward it's just fun or, or it's just a game. But I think the same people that say that probably wouldn't say the same thing if they were say to give gift, you know, alcohol to a young person and say, well, they're just doing it with me. It's not that big of a deal.”

The Ohio Lottery notes that those playing lottery games, including scratch-offs, must be 18 or older.

The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio is also urging gift-givers to be careful with giving lottery items to anyone, even adults. The 2022 Ohio Gambling Survey found that 2.8% of Ohioans have a gambling addiction, and 19.8% are at risk for developing problem gambling.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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