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What's the 'deal' about youth gambling?

From gambling advertisements to poker tournaments on sporting channels, card games at lunch and raffles at schools, gambling is present everywhere in the lives of youth today. Studies have shown that adolescents report significantly higher rates of problem gambling than adults. Many youth are well-versed in gambling activities as they are the first generation to live in a society where gambling is legalized, actively promoted, and even glamorized. With the rising popularity of online gambling and gaming, youth are presented with even more possibilities to engage in gambling activities.

As mandated by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the YMCA Youth Gambling Awareness Program (YGAP) educates youth and adults involved in young people’s lives about gambling facts and related risks while encouraging healthy choices and informed/responsible decision making. YGAP enhances youth’s coping skills and works to prevent youth problem gambling through outreach, education, promoting community awareness and involvement in youth engagement activities. In 1999, the YMCA of Greater Toronto was asked to respond to a Request for Proposal by the Ministry of Health and Long term Care for the development of a provincial gambling awareness program as a pilot. Today YGAP, a bilingual program, is offered in 19 communities collaborating with 15 YMCA associations across Ontario. 

YGAP is similar to other YMCA programs and services are developed through the framework of:
  • Impact the social determinants of health such as preventing injury, reducing stress, increasing educational and/or skill attainment, building social support networks. 
  • Employ the philosophy of harm reduction:  helps with achieving balance and long-term commitment. 
  • Use an asset-based approach: emphasizes the strengths and positive features of an individual as their starting point for development, rather than gaps or deficits.

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