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New Research Finds Youth and Underage Gambling in Minnesota Declining

by: Institute Staff | Feb 2, 2011

While there have been a number of studies conducted on youth gambling, there is no clear consensus about whether gambling rates in this population are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. Recent reviews of the literature have yielded mixed conclusions and found a variety of results depending on when, where, and how the research was conducted (e.g., Volberg, Gupta, Griffiths, Olason, & Delfabbro, 2010; Jacobs, 2004). In order to get a clearer view of such complex population issues, researchers conduct longitudinal research, which studies a population and attempts to measure a variable in the same way at the same place over the course of time. A recently published article in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors presents the findings of a longitudinal study that found significant declines in youth gambling over the past 15 years (Stinchfield, 2011).


The study was conducted by Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., associate director at the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He analyzed data from a survey of 83,260 ninth- and 12th-grade students in Minnesota in 2007, along with data from previous replications of this survey administered in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004. (The National Center for Responsible Gaming was a partial funder of this survey in 1997.) By giving the same survey to the same population in the same way over a period of time, Dr. Stinchfield is able to draw meaningful conclusions about the gambling behavior of students in Minnesota since 1992.


The study found that youth gambling rates have consistently declined from a peak of 72.9 percent of students in 1992 to a low of 53 percent in the 2007 survey. During this same period, underage lottery and casino gambling have fallen even more dramatically, with boys’ underage lottery play peaking in 1992 at 43.5 percent and declining to 15.3 percent in 2007. Conversely, rates of frequent gambling (that is, gambling daily or weekly) have stayed about the same since 1992. Figure 1i shows the declining rate of total gambling rates, while frequent gambling rates stay about the same over time (Stinchfield, p.5).


Though frequent gambling has been generally stable between 1992 and 2007, there was a significant 32 percent decrease between 2004 and 2007 (from 17 percent to 11.4 percent). One of the reasons for this decrease may be a decline in poker playing between 2004 and 2007. The study tracked the rate of card playing and found a sharp increase between 2001 and 2004 (which roughly coincides with the rise in popularity of televised poker tournaments), and a subsequent fall in the 2007 rates to below where they were in 2001. The peak in card playing in 2004, and its subsequent fall in 2007, can be seen clearly in Figure 3 below, as can the generally consistent rates of frequent gambling for 12th grade boys from 1992 to 2007 (Stinchfield, p.6).


Dr. Stinchfield acknowledges that this study was not designed to determine why fewer youth are gambling, but he does suggest some possible explanations. First, he states that the “novelty” of commercial gambling may have worn off with youth falling into a more normative pattern of gambling, which for most consists of little or no gambling. Second, Dr. Stinchfield suggests that there are more activities vying for the attention of youth than there were in 1992, such as the internet, social networking websites, hand-held game devices, video games, and portable music devices. He recommends that future research try to determine the precise reason for the decline in gambling among youth. Furthermore, citing the concern that a significant number of young people are still engaging in underage gambling, Dr. Stinchfield notes that additional research should focus on whether these findings can inform youth gambling prevention programs.


Finally, Dr. Stinchfield theorizes about the relationship between commercial gambling and youth gambling rates. He states, “These results do not support the assertion that growth in commercial gambling and greater accessibility to commercial gambling opportunities will lead to increases in youth gambling,” (Stinchfield, 2011, p. 9). He supports this conclusion by pointing to the fall in youth gambling rates between 1990 and 2007, while the state of Minnesota expanded gambling to include “over 3,000 state run lottery outlets, 18 Las Vegas-style tribal casinos, and two racetracks with card rooms” (Stinchfield, 2011, p. 9). Dr. Stinchfield concludes that “[w]hile youth gambling participation rates do not appear to be influenced by commercial gambling, they do appear to be influenced by popular fads, such as the popularity of televised poker tournaments” (Stinchfield, p. 9).


More information on the article is available on PubMed. Are you surprised by these findings? Tell us in the Comments section below.



Jacobs, D. F. (2004). Youth gambling in North America: Long term trends and future prospects. In J. Derevensky & R. Gupta (Eds.), Gambling problems in youth theoretical and applied perspectives (pp. 1-24). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Stinchfield, R. (2011). Gambling among Minnesota public school students from 1992 to 2007: Declines in youth gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. doi:10.1037/a0021266

Volberg, R. A., Gupta, R., Griffiths, M. D., Olason, D. T., & Delfabbro, P. (2010). An international perspective on youth gambling prevalence studies. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 22(1), 3-38.


i Figures 1 and 3 are reproduced with permission of the author and under the dissemination guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

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