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Group hopes to stem underage gambling

Sunday, December 23, 2007 | 4:42 p.m. CST; updated 5:45 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The Missouri Gaming Association is looking to raise awareness of underage gambling by offering two $1,500 scholarships and four $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors. The 2008 contest, Project 21, is calling for student submissions in the form of articles, posters or videos explaining the pitfalls of underage gambling.

Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association, said his group is looking for more submissions than the 25 entries it received last year.

“Project 21 is a good opportunity for high school students to get scholarships,” Winter said. “The purpose is to stop casino gambling by people under the age of 21.”

According to the Web site of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, gambling is a popular high-risk activity among teenagers. Facebook, an online community, features several gambling interest groups frequented by Missouri students.

Kit Land, now 25 and a member of one such group, said he started gambling at age 18 and even got his parents to join him in the fun.

“I used to play poker every Monday night with friends,” Land said.

By Missouri law, you must be at least 18 to play lotteries and 21 to go to casinos, but about 85 percent of high school students have tried gambling at some stage, according to the Web site of the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling.

Also according to the alliance’s 2006 annual report, the number of middle school gamblers more than tripled from 2,036 in 2002 to 6,595 in 2006.

Nationwide in 2007, between 4 percent and 8 percent of adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age meet the criteria for having a gambling problem, according to a National Council on Problem Gambling information sheet. Another 10 percent to 15 percent of youth are potential problem gamblers, it said.


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