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Apps and Adolescents | Chris Ward, The Way Back Inn

Chris Ward, outreach coordinator at The Way Back Inn, discusses a youth and young adult-oriented curriculum called Stacked Deck. Younger generations are growing up with simulated gambling embedded in video games. The Stacked Deck educational offering is intended to identify the potential harms present in video gaming products and how youth and adolescents can begin to recognize when they are being manipulated into gambling simulation.

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00;00;03;27 – 00;00;29;01

Speaker 1: Hey, it’s Shane Cook and welcome to another episode of Wager Danger. Today we have a returning guest, Chris Ward, the outreach coordinator from the way back inn. Chris has been working in the gambling addiction space for several years now. Most recently, he’s taken a deep dive into gaming, a gambling addiction among youth and young adults through a targeted learning program called Stacked Deck.

00;00;29;03 – 00;00;54;14

Speaker 1: This program educates junior high and high school students about the dangers of gaming, gambling and what to be aware of while they play. Our conversation covers a lot of ground. We discuss how games are designed to disguise the gambling aspects and how adolescents are manipulated by in-game advertisements, sometimes to the extent that they don’t even realize they’re gambling.

00;00;54;17 – 00;01;20;00

Speaker 1: Chris shares some excellent insights on how to teach kids about these tactics and emphasizes the importance of financial literacy. This is an important topic for anyone who’s paying for in-game purchases like skin O’s or loot boxes, but doesn’t understand the risks entailed with this seemingly harmless activity. Welcome back to the show, Chris.

00;01;20;02 – 00;01;22;25

Speaker 2: Hey thanks. it’s good to be back Shane. Nice to see you.

00;01;22;28 – 00;01;43;19

Speaker 1: Absolutely. Yeah. Good to be back. Boy, it seems like that was quite a while ago. For those of you who have not had the opportunity to listen to our very first episode. Chris and I co-hosted that episode and we had a panel of guests on and quite similar in terms of the overall topic that we were talking about.

00;01;43;19 – 00;02;23;05

Speaker 1: Then as we were focused on the adolescent and youth demographic as it pertains to problem gambling. So we’re going to dive a little bit deeper today. And Chris, I know you had the opportunity to recently participate in an offering that discussed this demographic in particular and talked about ways to reach out to young students that might be in middle school or high school, even into early years of college, and really talk about some of the unique aspects of at least reaching that audience and having this discussion about problem gambling, what all that entails.

00;02;23;05 – 00;02;29;22

Speaker 1: So if you wouldn’t mind, could you just kind of give us an overview of what that was all about?

00;02;29;25 – 00;02;57;12

Speaker 2: Yeah. So we actually, through the Illinois Council of Problem Gambling all had the opportunity. They sent it out to everyone in the state, all the different providers, different education institutions, different cohorts of therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists to take part in what they called the stack that training. So the stack deck training was a way to kind of involve all the providers in the possibility of utilizing what they call the stack deck curriculum into different school systems in the area.

00;02;57;14 – 00;03;26;10

Speaker 2: So the training itself was one facilitator from North Carolina, and she walked us through how exactly we would take the stack the curriculum and implement it into the different school systems. So as you said, it could go anywhere from middle school to high school to young adults kind of entering that college age, because as we know with the statistics from the gambling needs assessments of Illinois, people around 13 to 14 up until age 24 are extremely susceptible to gambling, and that can lead to problem gambling.

00;03;26;12 – 00;03;48;21

Speaker 2: So after she kind of walked through how we would implement the stack deck training, we actually went through the stack deck training ourselves as though we were the students receiving it. So the stack deck curriculum itself is a 5 to 6 session actual educational curriculum that you would take and try to get into health classes and different health care systems in the schools.

00;03;48;23 – 00;04;12;06

Speaker 1: Okay. So the idea then is they’re training up a group of mental health care professionals in the Illinois area, and that those people who are participated in this training will then go out and make contact with schools, try to get the curriculum in there, and perhaps even go in and lead the course, the course within those school programs.

00;04;12;08 – 00;04;36;09

Speaker 1: Very interesting. I know at Gateway we had somebody who participated in that as well. So we’re looking forward to the opportunity to do that as well as I’m sure you have some targets in mind to go approach about this program as well. I think the more people we have out doing activities like this, the better we are. The more educated people become.

00;04;36;12 – 00;04;51;24

Speaker 1: What was interesting is I was looking through some of the materials that you shared with us from that training. Was there a particular age in that in that adolescent category or young adult category that was of particular concern?

00;04;51;27 – 00;05;19;11

Speaker 2: I think it’s kind of like a almost a double edged question because you want to start any sort of prevention education as early as possible because you would rather prevent something than react to something later. So the entire crux of the program is to reach the youth at a young age and young adults to really kind of seep education into exactly what is gambling, what is gaming, how does gaming tie to gambling, and how do I know that signs are leading to problem gambling?

00;05;19;13 – 00;05;55;03

Speaker 2: So from that, gambling needs assessment, I just mentioned that cohort of 18 to 24 was found to have the most lifetime prevalence of online or virtual gambling. So while the 18 to 24 would be a cohort I really focus on, that’s kind of what it’s leading into when it could actually become potentially more of a problem with gambling versus when you start to do the prevention education early, you probably want to target around 13 to 14 when people are really starting to play all of these different games and they’re starting to get involved in these different games in their schools and in their friend groups and just sort of that susceptibility that they might have

00;05;55;03 – 00;06;14;21

Speaker 2: and the propensity to actually gamble when they may not know what gambling is. Because part of the program dives into the history of gambling way back into eons when it used to be cavemen gambling and really what it means to wager or to bet on something and to really balance out the odds of wagering something to get a specific outcome.

00;06;14;23 – 00;06;35;22

Speaker 2: So I really feel like you’d want to focus really early, early teens to really get that gambling education out there, especially with all the new forms of gambling and and legal gambling and gaming and sort of the inner cross nationality and then continue it on through college. They do mention, though, that some of the sessions might be better geared toward certain age groups.

00;06;35;22 – 00;06;56;06

Speaker 2: So I know that they said the entirety of the program is super effective with grades 9 to 12, so that’s around the ages of 14 to 19. Right. But they did say that it’s flexible. They said it works best and most effective when you do all five sessions with the six follow up session. But they did say lessons 1 to 4 and five, which you could share.

00;06;56;06 – 00;07;17;03

Speaker 2: Maybe when you share the podcast, people can kind of see what the topics are, but they’re really appropriate for grades seven and eight while lessons one, two and three, which is kind of the history and a little more deep delving into the actual brain and the different circuitry that goes on with neurotransmitters and all that obviously is going to be more geared toward a university level when they’re actually is probably around like 18 to 22.

00;07;17;04 – 00;07;41;07

Speaker 1: Okay. That makes sense. What what the things that you mentioned early on is how aware this age age group is 13 to 24, how aware they are of gambling and their experience with gaming and gambling. How much of that was a part of this discussion? I got I imagine it was. Yeah, it was a key component.

00;07;41;09 – 00;08;14;15

Speaker 2: It was a key component. And I think that even us as therapists and as, you know, gambling, recovery treatment providers of varying levels of care and even just people who are doing therapy, who don’t actually focus on gambling or don’t have like a PC certification, they were seeing that they didn’t even necessarily realize how much gaming and gambling are intertwined and how much you would never know that because if you’re not high about gambling or gaming, you’re not taught about what really constitutes as gambling.

00;08;14;15 – 00;08;15;25

Speaker 2: How would they know?

00;08;15;28 – 00;08;17;03

Speaker 1: Right.

00;08;17;05 – 00;08;39;02

Speaker 2: A big thing about this, too, and I feel like I should have said this at the beginning, this is actually the first world wide gambling program to actually be evidence based as a prevention program. And they actually found with empirical evidence that it deters negative behaviors surrounding gambling and in turn also gives people away from problem gambling. Okay.

00;08;39;03 – 00;08;44;15

Speaker 2: So it’s an actual evidence based prevention curriculum. And there really aren’t any out there for gambling.

00;08;44;17 – 00;08;55;01

Speaker 1: So when you say help, help us understand what you mean by evidence based and why that’s so important to to make that distinction here.

00;08;55;04 – 00;09;19;25

Speaker 2: Evidence based, I guess, as an umbrella term really just means that they have studies and they’ve done studies with these different age groups and as an educational curriculum, and they actually have results that show and prove that this program actually works to deter different behaviors, which decreases gambling, and then also in turn decreases that problematic gambling. So they have different studies that they’ve done.

00;09;19;25 – 00;09;40;20

Speaker 2: And I believe in the curriculum. They actually show you the different doctors that have worked on this. Okay. There’s two doctors that are the main doctors that have done some studies. That’s Dr. Williams and Dr. Wood. But there was a huge cohort of different doctors that did studies on it. I don’t have an interest of the research that they did, but it’s evidence based and that it actually is real and actually works.

00;09;40;20 – 00;09;47;01

Speaker 2: You’re not just educating about gambling, but you’re educating based on facts and knowing actually.

00;09;47;07 – 00;09;49;13

Speaker 1: Real world results, right?

00;09;49;16 – 00;09;59;21

Speaker 2: So often that turn you’re right. We kind of throw it around evidence based modalities. We have evidence based practices. What does that really mean? It really means that people studied it and have proven that it works.

00;09;59;23 – 00;10;26;05

Speaker 1: Yeah. And somewhere somewhere along that timeline, there was an epidemiologist who was involved who was studying all that. And that’s a term we learned in a previous show that we did with Dr. Nathan Smith from the Cambridge Institute. Really good information in that surrounding our veterans, veterans community in particular. But same kind of concept, right? It’s based on evidence.

00;10;26;05 – 00;10;32;14

Speaker 1: And that evidence has been shown to yield x results. And that’s been it’s also.

00;10;32;14 – 00;11;03;15

Speaker 2: One of the best selling points, I would say, to get into schools throughout to saying, hey, this is a problem. We really think there should be involved in health curriculum, but we actually have proof that this works and here’s how and who gave and show them the studies, because people very often would never include something like prevention of gambling in their health curriculum, because I think we’re so behind on public awareness of knowing that gambling could be an issue and how it actually can affect youth because their brains are still developing that schools will be hesitant because they don’t quite know what the issue really is.

00;11;03;15 – 00;11;14;18

Speaker 2: I think we all know about phones and social media and technology, but tying that gambling and gaming to a technology involving in an actual school curriculum I think has some advocacy work to be done.

00;11;14;25 – 00;11;49;02

Speaker 1: Sure. Well, and and the thing with this age group, there are so many things that this age group deals with consistently, whether that’s anxiety, depression, you could probably name the list that this this cat, this age category adolescent to young adult is typically dealing with. And on top of that, we’re we’re throwing in gaming and gambling which can in some in some ways exacerbate all of those situations.

00;11;49;04 – 00;12;09;08

Speaker 1: And people don’t recognize that. So there’s an education effort that needs to be done, I think within middle schools, high schools and to some extent even in college, that this is a vulnerable population that we need to take notice of.

00;12;09;10 – 00;12;43;25

Speaker 2: Yeah, I actually completely agree, especially when it comes to this population, because add on top of you mentioned exacerbation, I know we love to use that word when it comes to COVID as well, but it really is true that any sort of anxiety, isolation and social issues, issues within the family only got worse during the pandemic. So if you don’t really understand what gaming is, what gambling is, and how susceptible you are and how much you really don’t know about it, it goes from a life escape mechanism to kind of alleviate that anxiety or stress caused by all of those issues in a way too unhealthy escapism where someone could actually be developing a problem

00;12;43;25 – 00;12;45;24

Speaker 2: with gambling, even though they’re only 15.

00;12;45;26 – 00;13;31;28

Speaker 1: Right. Okay. So let’s talk about that a little bit. Gaming and gambling. Give us some insight into what are the similarities and what are the differences when we talk about gaming. I know gaming can be used as a broad term to describe the casino industry and gambling in general. I think in general I think you hear that term a lot from the providers and when I say providers, I’m talking about the people that provide the games or the contests or the gambling outlets themselves tend to use that term gaming as opposed to gambling.

00;13;32;00 – 00;13;58;15

Speaker 1: Are we talking about the energy? Are they interchangeable in that way? Or when when we try to make that distinction, are we talking about, you know, video gaming on one hand for this particular audience? Are we talking about video gaming and how that can evolve or contain components of gambling? Just kind of help straighten us out on that.

00;13;58;17 – 00;14;19;00

Speaker 2: Yeah. So that that’s pretty loaded because there’s so much to that. I think you really hit the nail on the head that different advertisers and those different stakeholders in the gambling arena are, while within our world and even within our own state, has tried to move away from the term gambling because everyone’s starting to realize that the word gambling has negative connotations to it.

00;14;19;02 – 00;14;19;15

Speaker 1: Sure.

00;14;19;22 – 00;14;49;16

Speaker 2: But if you start to see gaming and all of these different mediums all of a sudden become gaming, which they kind of really are, then you’re almost saving yourself from negative press. And also people realizing that what they’re doing actually really is considered gambling. So you can define gambling in a lot of different ways, but really what it is, is you’re putting something of material value, whether that’s money or status or giving something that you own or have trained to win something in return.

00;14;49;16 – 00;15;08;13

Speaker 2: You’re trying to get something back. When you put something in. And the Deck deck program actually does a really good job at showing people that really you’re gambling in a lot of ways in life and in general, even if it’s not you playing a game or going to a casino or playing roulette or playing cards. But really, every time you leave your house, you’re taking a gamble on your life.

00;15;08;13 – 00;15;29;00

Speaker 2: You’re deciding, I want to go to work. My material value is me trying to go get money. So I’m actually putting something at risk, trying to get a certain reward in the end. So when you talk about gambling, it really is so fast that when it jumps and seeps into all of these different mediums and games and the virtual reality and everything that we’re kind of living in, it actually touches upon every aspect that you mentioned.

00;15;29;00 – 00;15;50;27

Speaker 2: So we do have video gaming, which has a lot of gambling components interlaced throughout it. Okay. And then we also have everything. So the actual casinos, I think for a youth and this cohort, a lot of the legal gambling that they would be doing in the state of Illinois, they’re not able to do yet. But that’s where the danger comes in because it’s so easily accessible on your phone in a variety of ways.

00;15;50;29 – 00;16;10;04

Speaker 2: So the different advertisements that people click on, there’s a lot of different gaming advertisers that show up when you’re loading a screen, watching the YouTube video or listening to a podcast, an advertisement will pop up and it’s talking about all these different games. So youth, without knowing are just clicking on these things and not really realizing that it actually constitutes as gambling.

00;16;10;06 – 00;16;10;27

Speaker 1: Okay.

00;16;11;00 – 00;16;35;23

Speaker 2: And within their video games, I would say there are so many different avenues that they can gamble that they’re not really seeing it as gambling. I know they’ll be able to go in depth at length about this, but when they mentioned loot boxes, you’re actually paying real money in your life or your parents money tied to an account on your phone and then you’re buying something in the game because you want to see if you’re going to get the good items and then you can even sell it to other people and then get real money back.

00;16;35;25 – 00;16;37;17

Speaker 2: And in real life.

00;16;37;19 – 00;17;28;04

Speaker 1: Yeah, we’ve talked about that quite a bit from here and there. And I still don’t think people really understand the concept of that, or at least a certain age demographic. And I put myself in that age demographic that doesn’t quite understand it. I understand how it works. But in terms of getting to that youth and adolescent and young adult population and putting it in the context of this curriculum, what is the approach to really kind of drive home that message that when you’re playing these games and you’re you’re paying for these loot boxes or skins or whatever they might be, that that’s actually a form of gambling, because for us, we know it fits the

00;17;28;04 – 00;17;49;19

Speaker 1: definition, right? You’re you’re putting up something of value with the hopes that you are going to get something of even greater value in return. But yeah, in terms of having that discussion with this age group, how do you get the light to click on that?

00;17;49;22 – 00;18;20;25

Speaker 2: That’s a great question. And I think one of the most important parts of this, a curriculum actually, is because you want to use a multimedia approach that speaks to the cohort that you’re actually administering this lesson to are facilitating these lessons because in 5 to 6 lessons, about 45 minutes each, you really want to make sure that you’re engaging and engaging in the proper manner to actually relay the information correctly and actually plan some seeds so that people can start to take this with them as they get older and as they start to play these games and do these different meanings of gambling.

00;18;20;25 – 00;18;43;20

Speaker 2: So we talked about 18 to 24. Once they’re done doing all the games on their phone and some people still do video games up until in their thirties, forties, fifties. But a lot of the majority when you’re in college, let’s say between that 18 to 20 2 to 24 hour mark, you start to do social gambling. So there’s even more at stake, if you will, because they’re actually potentially losing or gaining friendships while they’re doing all of this stuff.

00;18;43;22 – 00;19;09;09

Speaker 2: But the best way to engage, I would say, is to speak with the schools that you’re actually going to talk to and see what they’ve seen within the schools and what have parents have talked about with their children and in the schools to see if there’s somewhere where you can meet the students, where they are? The worst thing you’d want to do is just to go in and just start teaching something that may not actually be pertinent or meaningful to those students or to that community.

00;19;09;11 – 00;19;23;15

Speaker 2: But a great way to do that, I would say, is to ask the parents, ask the schools, and even ask the youth that you’re talking to in the young adults. What are you guys playing? Can someone actually explain the game that you’re playing? And have you had a blue box or what sort of other medium of gambling have you seen within that game?

00;19;23;15 – 00;19;40;08

Speaker 2: So kind of ask them if they can kind of go back and go into that game mode and think about what could have constituted us gambling, because some of them may not be playing the games that all of these studies were based on at first. Maybe loot boxes aren’t as popular anymore, but what is something similar to a loot box?

00;19;40;08 – 00;19;47;20

Speaker 2: Or what do you buy on the outside that you’re still getting on the inside that you’re kind of wagering on and hoping for a really good outcome?

00;19;47;23 – 00;20;16;10

Speaker 1: Okay, so let’s talk about Candy Crush. Does that kind of fit that profile as well? And I know that’s geared more towards adults, but my understanding is that’s there’s some gamification that is incorporated with that particular game, if you want to call it. And I’ve seen people talk about it and there they would readily admit that they’re addicted to Candy Crush.

00;20;16;12 – 00;20;36;25

Speaker 1: So but I’ve never played it, so I don’t know how it works. And maybe that was discussed during this time period as well. I’m sure some kids are. It’s appealing to kids probably. Yeah, I would guess younger kids might start with something like that on a mobile device. Well, take.

00;20;36;25 – 00;21;06;02

Speaker 2: The game model and make a younger version that’s more appealing to youth. Okay. The kind of theme, concept and idea that I may be going out on a limb here, but I could actually see almost any game where there’s any amount of chance involved or skill involved, where if you do a better job, you get more points or you get more money, that almost automatically every game, if they’re one of those two things, has gambling in it or has been, you know, gamified so that there is some sort of outcome that you’re trying to achieve.

00;21;06;02 – 00;21;29;04

Speaker 2: Do you want the highest score? You want to do better than you did yesterday? And then you tie into all these other things like the social isolation and the anxiety and the stress. Are you using this game that you’re like your people said that they’re basically they’re addicted to? Are you using it as an escapism tactic? Okay. Are you actually facing all these issues in your life or is this a way for you to kind of look at something else and clock out for a while and disassociate from your reality?

00;21;29;06 – 00;21;52;13

Speaker 2: Right. So I could see it in the chance aspect, in this skill aspect, if there’s any sort of monetary value A tied to doing the better job at the game, automatically Gambling for Candy Crush. I actually don’t know specifically. I haven’t played it myself, but I know that imagine a slot machine and the lights in a casino and everything and the sounds and all the fun right here in your hand in a phone.

00;21;52;16 – 00;22;07;28

Speaker 2: Even if it’s not a casino type gaming actually don’t have like, you know, a seven, seven, seven or cherry Jerry Cherry. But you’re getting all of that stimulation for your brain. I could easily see how that would tie to gambling because your brain doesn’t really know what’s going on on the outside and it all lights up the same areas and gives you that dopamine rush.

00;22;07;28 – 00;22;16;20

Speaker 2: And I did better than I did yesterday. I got a higher score than my friend. I’m using it to not feel so bad about myself. You start getting all of these rushes with it.

00;22;16;23 – 00;23;00;03

Speaker 1: Yeah, there are a lot of opportunities that are out there targeted to various age groups. In terms of your online games that can be played, that could really be a Segway or a gateway into playing this game and potentially experience some harm down the road. How savvy and I think I know the answer to this question how savvy are the people that are developing these games to understand what’s going to appeal to each of their intended demographic audiences, or if I if I start to break it down by demographics.

00;23;00;06 – 00;23;19;10

Speaker 1: Ah, I suspect that this age category that we’re talking about today is one of the holy grails for developers of games and and that gambling concepts come along with that to target. Am I am I correct in that assumption?

00;23;19;13 – 00;23;24;10

Speaker 2: You are and also youth are the target for anything I would say for.

00;23;24;12 – 00;23;26;18

Speaker 1: Marriage and always have been right.

00;23;26;20 – 00;23;56;29

Speaker 2: And will because they’re the future of people who are going to be spending money on it and they also have the ability to indulge in it at a later time in life. I think they’re really highly susceptible. I think that the people who work on these games and on different gambling mediums and have tied it all to be in your phone like during the COVID pandemic that we mentioned earlier and exacerbation of all these issues, sports betting came a thing and it kind of weaseled its way into Illinois as being a legal thing for a while, kind of dipping around the laws because it was virtual.

00;23;57;01 – 00;24;03;01

Speaker 2: But there really was not an immediate way to track how old people were that were actually waging on these sports.

00;24;03;01 – 00;24;03;24

Speaker 1: Right.

00;24;03;26 – 00;24;27;08

Speaker 2: So youth were easily targeted when it comes to like the science of advertising. And you mentioned demographics. Think about when you Google something as an adult or as youth or just go anywhere online and try to get any information, all of a sudden you start seeing ads popping up on all of your different mediums. If it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, any of those different social media websites, you see what you searched there.

00;24;27;15 – 00;24;51;21

Speaker 2: If they’re able to target you like that and they’re able to target you by demographic and what you’re doing and what you’re thinking about and what you’re typing in and what sort of activity you’re using on your phone. They have all of the information that they need for anyone, for anything. And I would say that they do utilize that to really do smart, targeted, tactful messaging for these youth, to really draw them in and make it look fun.

00;24;51;23 – 00;25;19;26

Speaker 2: We live in such an immediate society and youth are just overwhelmed, I would say, with their phones and all of these different apps and just the expediency of everything you scroll through Tick tock and there’s videos that are 2 seconds long and you’re just in this really long thread and they had advertisements and games on the side. So they’re just inundated with so much all at once that there’s no way that the people who are creating this haven’t found even the just the most may new details to use to try to target you.

00;25;19;28 – 00;25;49;28

Speaker 1: Right so they understand what’s going to get somebody to click and yeah where where somebody who who might be at a later stage in life has been through been around the block a few times understands that hey, this is advertising and it’s probably a better offer than I’m going to get in return. As is often the case when you’re when you’re targeting at youth, they really don’t have the experience to understand that.

00;25;49;28 – 00;25;57;24

Speaker 1: That’s a marketing technique to get somebody to click and therefore they’re more susceptible, right?

00;25;57;27 – 00;25;59;04

Speaker 2: Yeah.

00;25;59;06 – 00;26;33;19

Speaker 1: All right. So let’s talk about social or social emotional learning. I know that is that is a concept that as I was looking through the the materials was a fairly new term for me to see in print at least. I’m sure I’ve heard it along the way. But based on what I saw, my understanding is that this is a method for which to have this discussion with this age group.

00;26;33;21 – 00;26;50;15

Speaker 1: Can you can you share a little bit more on that particular area that may have been discussed during that during this training and how it helps prepare this adolescent and young adult population to receive the message?

00;26;50;18 – 00;27;27;28

Speaker 2: Yeah, that’s that’s a great question. Youth, as you mentioned earlier during that age, are going through so much. There’s hormonal changes, there’s physical changes, there’s friendship changes. You’re trying to kind of really sort through who you are and who you want to be. And a lot of that fits within the context of your social emotional well-being. What they show with the research for this curriculum was actually that any sort of social environment ships that are going on, especially when we’re kind of getting into more of a 100% virtual online gambling social gaming world that tied to that shift.

00;27;27;28 – 00;27;50;10

Speaker 2: You really also want to have prevention programing, but the the research shows that that prevention program actually does better when there are social environment shifts. So with this curriculum, they said it’s good to try to go into individual classrooms and do it to as many students as you can. So if you’re actually facilitating the program to a class of 12 to 20 students, that’s fantastic.

00;27;50;12 – 00;28;13;18

Speaker 2: But they found that it’s actually better to target the entire peer group and that the overall effectiveness of the program would actually be better when the entire age group gets that lesson. So instead of doing one class, you’d actually want to do the entire ninth grade level, for example, Or instead of going just to one senior class, you would want to try to talk to all the seniors at once.

00;28;13;18 – 00;28;18;12

Speaker 2: Because when everyone learns about it at once, the overall impact is higher.

00;28;18;14 – 00;28;21;02

Speaker 1: Okay. And I found that sense. Yeah.

00;28;21;04 – 00;28;42;19

Speaker 2: Yeah, it makes sense. But I also found it interesting because you’d think, oh boy, if you’re doing, you know, 20 students at once, maybe they get more direct contacts, they have more time to answer questions. But when you’re doing it as a full shift so that everyone is aware that this prevention programing in education is happening, the better it does and the more that they will all be able to talk about it and share what they’ve learned and start to implement it into their social emotional environments.

00;28;42;19 – 00;29;02;19

Speaker 2: So their friend groups, they can go back home and talk to their family about it. They can talk to their teachers about it or any other peers in any sort of group that they have. If it’s sports, if it’s their online video gaming community that they’ve made, the social emotional aspect is vital to facilitate the program and also for students when those environmental shifts are happening in their social circle.

00;29;02;21 – 00;29;27;23

Speaker 1: Yeah, well, it’s very interesting to me because that makes total sense. And I appreciate you explaining that and what the purpose was there, because I remember when I when I was that age, having some knowledge and being, you know, I’m in a rich rush, write out and talk to everybody about this great thing that I learned. It doesn’t always work that way at that age group, that there’s a lot of peer pressure.

00;29;27;23 – 00;29;54;19

Speaker 1: There’s a lot of social jockeying that’s going on at that age age level. So depending on your peers and your peers, willingness to accept a message, if they haven’t heard it before, that could take any discussion very quickly. So it makes a lot of sense that you would you would want to hit broadly and then let the let the conversation happen organically from there.

00;29;54;21 – 00;30;11;17

Speaker 2: Yeah, because it even touches upon even deeply socioeconomic status for a lot of people, especially when money is involved. Let’s say there’s a video gaming community and everyone else has, you know, affluent, well-to-do parents are able to give them a bunch of money on the outside to buy stuff inside the game. Their character is going to be leveled up real quick.

00;30;11;19 – 00;30;25;27

Speaker 2: Right. But then you have people who aren’t so affluent or come from a background where they really don’t get that much money. So now all of a sudden you’re doing less well in a game, but somehow in real life that makes you almost less of a person or you’re less cool to your friend group, or they look at you a different way because you’re not at the same level.

00;30;25;27 – 00;30;36;16

Speaker 2: So even though this whole virtual reality exists in this video game, it starts to seep into your actual social emotional environment. So the more students that you touch, the more they’re able to really talk about that.

00;30;36;16 – 00;31;07;10

Speaker 1: Yeah, that’s pretty heavy to talk about the impact of of the socio economic impact of of gaming and participating in these games and now how that has a potential bleed over. It’s just it’s one more avenue that like we have already discussed here, one more thing that this age group has to deal with and it’s and in most cases haven’t quite mastered the emotional intelligence to deal with it right now.

00;31;07;16 – 00;31;30;25

Speaker 2: And they really, in a lot of ways, they can start to garner that change in their emotional intelligence and kind of foster healthy boundaries. But it’s really something that’s difficult to learn when you’re younger. Your decision making frontal lobe, that’s part it’s not fully developed yet. That’s more around 25. So it is interesting that 18 to 24, right before you’re 25, have the highest level of lifetime online gaming than any other population in Illinois.

00;31;30;28 – 00;31;53;16

Speaker 2: But before you’re able to learn all of that, that’s why doing curriculums like this is key and it’s vital to actually get this implemented everywhere so that people are starting to learn about this as they’re getting older without knowing that they’re going to be involved. And so everything’s actually tied this to when we have started the gambling awareness campaign throughout the state and we started doing what are called activation events.

00;31;53;16 – 00;32;10;06

Speaker 2: I think you did one or two activations events for Gateway where you actually went to the college basketball game, right? So we started the table there and I saw it, especially Northwestern, which is a very affluent school. A lot of smart kids go there are young adults, but also there’s a lot of money flying around in that area.

00;32;10;08 – 00;32;27;23

Speaker 2: But a lot of the students even just passing our table, were making jokes about gambling and their sports betting and even betting on the game at hand. And you could see some friends poking fun at the other friend. And the other friend looked a little upset about what the other friend was saying. So then they’re like, Well, I’m going to, you know, bet on this player and I’m going to get a little bit better for this and this and this.

00;32;27;23 – 00;32;48;24

Speaker 2: And you are actively hearing that social dichotomy between people who are, quote unquote, good at their gambling and sports wagering and those who are, quote unquote, bad. But you can kind of see that social divide even in real life at these games. And it really spoke volumes to me to see actively right in front of me 20 to 22 year olds arguing about stuff.

00;32;48;24 – 00;33;04;29

Speaker 2: I don’t even think that 21 year olds are supposed to be gambling in sports betting, but they find their ways through their phones and those different mediums because it’s so much easier to kind of weasel your way through. Sure. I think they have some like I think they have some different mechanisms to lock people out unless they are a certain age.

00;33;04;29 – 00;33;07;09

Speaker 2: But I do think that there are ways to get around it.

00;33;07;10 – 00;33;15;14

Speaker 1: Yeah, I don’t want to get into the details of how you sort of circumvent the rules, but I don’t know that they.

00;33;15;14 – 00;33;16;11

Speaker 2: May not be able to help me because.

00;33;16;16 – 00;33;33;01

Speaker 1: That age group can be savvy enough to figure that out. Yes, I think that’s the that’s the overarching point here is it’s not a foolproof system at this point, especially when it comes to online sports wagering. I’ll say that.

00;33;33;04 – 00;33;48;12

Speaker 2: Yeah. And another key point to to kind of talk about is the money doesn’t feel real when it’s on your phone. No, it’s a lot of what people are doing and they’re going through all these sports wagering websites and different things like, oh, you, you get 1000 free dollars for signing up for FanDuel, but it’s really more like Monopoly money.

00;33;48;12 – 00;34;07;00

Speaker 2: You’re not actually getting $1,000 credited to your account, but it’s a credit to start gambling that you start using your own money. But $100 when you have to drive to the bank, walk to an ATM, physically pull out your card, get the cash, get the receipt, see your balance is entirely different than when you’re just clicking a button that says $100, Right?

00;34;07;03 – 00;34;14;07

Speaker 2: There’s a disconnect that happens where it doesn’t feel tangible or real, like you’re not really using your own money, but $100 button. I just press a square.

00;34;14;12 – 00;34;41;11

Speaker 1: Yeah, well, yeah. And unfortunately, I think we’re at an inflection point here where a lot of people at the younger end of the spectrum are very comfortable with utilizing digital cash for purchases and things like that, where you don’t really understand how much you’re spending because you don’t see it. There’s not a tactile experience that goes along with it.

00;34;41;14 – 00;35;11;18

Speaker 1: I’ve noticed that in younger people that have have experienced that and they start getting their own jobs and they’re making their own money and and what I’ve seen from some of the friends in my kids peer groups, they’re starting to carry cash. So they have that tactile experience. They’ve they’ve learned through maybe some poor choices that. Right. Because the best experience often comes from a bad decision.

00;35;11;20 – 00;35;19;06

Speaker 1: They’ve learned that having that opportunity to handle that cash prevents from overspending on things.

00;35;19;09 – 00;35;38;07

Speaker 2: So it ties to really learning the value of money as well. So people who are young don’t really realize how important money is to them in all those different avenues. So let’s say they start gambling in a game or, you know, starting with these loot boxes or any sort of game that they’re using anything monetary. They don’t realize how far $100 really goes.

00;35;38;10 – 00;36;02;26

Speaker 2: People talk about economic crises and the living wages being low, but then the cost of living is high. And so they’re not really quite understanding. So the younger that they’re using money without really getting the value and all of a sudden they’re continuing to gamble and perhaps it turns into a problem with gambling, but then all of a sudden now they have bills to pay and school to pay off and families to care for and food to buy and utilities to pay for.

00;36;02;28 – 00;36;20;23

Speaker 2: They’re starting to see I’m actually putting a lot of money toward this thing that really isn’t helping me. But they still, since I started younger, have the semblance of an idea that they’re actually going to get something in return because they’ve always been trying to get something in return. So if they have a couple of early wins and they get used to that, they might continue that behavior without realizing that it can be a problem around.

00;36;20;26 – 00;36;35;10

Speaker 1: Right. Okay. And this particular curriculum, I’m guessing that there is a component to it that talks about that financial literacy. I spent some time around it as well for for this age group.

00;36;35;13 – 00;37;00;22

Speaker 2: They did. And they really focus on the fact that good decision making and problem solving skills are essential to curtailing problem gambling later. So they really hone in on that good decision making, which ties to financial literacy so that they really get as much of an educational, well-rounded curriculum to really understand what’s going to happen later on in life.

00;37;00;24 – 00;37;18;27

Speaker 2: So that teach us about gambling. The history of Yemen moves into the science of problem gambling and how I can veer toward it. But it also wants to empower youth in what good decision making looks like. So when you do $500 but you have these three bills to pay, how much really could you even do for gambling? They don’t say in the curriculum that people should not gamble.

00;37;18;29 – 00;37;34;10

Speaker 2: They just want to show youth that there are ways to do good decision making and problem solving where they can still participate in some of these activities while having that knowledge as a foundation. Okay, so that something bad doesn’t happen or a problem doesn’t develop.

00;37;34;12 – 00;38;10;03

Speaker 1: Yeah, well, it sounds like a fascinating program and I’m glad you had the opportunity to participate in it and hopefully have the opportunity to implement the curriculum and some of the local schools where you are and start talking about this because I just think it’s an important demographic, age, demographic to to have this discussion and is there anything your from your perspective as you as you went through this program that you were like, I never really thought about that or oh my God, that’s so great.

00;38;10;10 – 00;38;20;22

Speaker 1: I got to remember this. This is what I really want to take away from this this learning program, this training that I participated in.

00;38;20;24 – 00;38;40;07

Speaker 2: Yeah, two things really come to mind. The first being that youth and young adults as well as older adults, we don’t really necessarily think about the fact that it kind of goes back to what I said at the beginning, where almost everything in life is a gamble. So when you do get to your car, you’re hoping to get to work.

00;38;40;07 – 00;39;04;08

Speaker 2: There’s an outcome there. You’re trying to get material value of getting that compensation back for going to work, but you’re really betting, quote unquote, with every decision that you make, everything is sort of a barter with your life in whatever capacity it is for your life. So I thought about that and just how powerful it is and how much I’ve seen even some of the sports betting ads that I’ve seen with the commercials, they talk about believing in yourself and you got in the car.

00;39;04;08 – 00;39;20;05

Speaker 2: You made a gamble that day. There was one ad software, it was FanDuel or something. And I went, I know something bad about specific organizations, what they’re doing. But there was one where these friends were talking about getting in the car, and I said, Well, this is a gamble. So everything else is to believe in yourself and to show that you can believe in yourself.

00;39;20;05 – 00;39;36;14

Speaker 2: And somehow that makes you better at gambling your money and losing more often than you win just shocked me and. I didn’t really tie those two together as much. And am I correct, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And when they put them in commercials like that, young people are going to be like, I’m invincible, I can’t get hurt.

00;39;36;16 – 00;39;56;02

Speaker 2: I am not affected by drugs, not affected by gambling. I could do whatever I want because I’m invincible. I’m young, so I just saw how targeted they really became in their ads so that was one key takeaway for me. And then the second I would say is just how far we have to go to really get this implemented into health curriculums at schools.

00;39;56;04 – 00;40;15;18

Speaker 2: Because I just talked to a partner that we work with named Thrive Counseling in Oak Park. I think they help people around our Cook County area and they finally were able to get into the schools. But it took a little bit of time and a little bit of fighting and really kind of deep advocacy to kind of really get through some of the stigma and ideas of suicide.

00;40;15;21 – 00;40;35;22

Speaker 2: So everything from suicide to gambling to alcohol to drugs, people don’t really want to talk about it because it could possibly be negative press for schools. So while this curriculum exists and it’s evidence based and people are starting to utilize it and as national, but it’s also worldwide and it’s the first one that’s evidence based as a prevention program worldwide for gambling.

00;40;35;24 – 00;40;52;16

Speaker 2: We actually have to get schools on board. I cannot even imagine back when I was in my sixth grade health class talking about gambling or gaming. So I feel like we’re just so far behind. I think we probably dabbled and touched on alcohol use and drinking and driving and, you know, don’t drink a prom when you’re in 12th grade.

00;40;52;16 – 00;41;15;29

Speaker 2: But I can’t even imagine that ever a ban being in our curriculum. So we had to educate the community and the schools and the parents and the students to really see that this is something that the vital for them that they should implement. Right. So It was kind of like a takeaway of getting passionate about the content and the concept and really seeing like, how can we get into the schools to actually start to get this program off the ground running.

00;41;16;02 – 00;42;17;05

Speaker 1: Yeah. All right, man, I appreciate appreciate your enthusiasm for this. I think it’s extremely important that we have this discussion with this age group, all age groups, for that matter, that are affected by gambling. But this is a this is an audience. And like the DARE program. And even though this is very different in its approach, it is an effort to get into the schools and at least start having this discussion to create the type of awareness to really help that group of students, adolescents and young adults to understand what’s happening to them from a marketing perspective, how they’re being marketed, to getting savvy on that particular aspect it and understanding the real risks and

00;42;17;05 – 00;42;35;25

Speaker 1: dangers associated with gambling and perhaps gambling without understanding your gambling and what that can lead to further down the road as they progress towards young adulthood and then into adulthood.

00;42;35;27 – 00;43;03;22

Speaker 2: Yeah, it really helps to teach them that good decision making and problem solving skills so that they’re well-rounded, healthy adults. While their brains are still developing. To make those sound decisions, you could still start practicing those tools as you’re younger. And I like the you mentioned the DARE program. This one, definitely the stack deck has a component of veering away from the doom and gloom and and the scare tactics, I would say, because the DARE program, while it was educational, kind of was like, don’t do drugs.

00;43;03;22 – 00;43;20;12

Speaker 2: Drugs are bad, kind of scary. Here’s an app. It’s new. You’re going to be you’ve seen the marijuana commercials where they’re deflated on the couch and their friend can’t talk anymore. So while that really kind of hits a point, this curriculum really tries to be more engaging and educational and show that here is what happens to your brain.

00;43;20;12 – 00;43;34;27

Speaker 2: But we’re not telling you, don’t do this, but more so you’re going to be doing this if you know it or not sometimes. But the more that you’re able to make those sound decisions and build that decision making toolkit, the better off and more healthy you’ll be in the long run.

00;43;35;00 – 00;44;04;21

Speaker 1: Right. And where I think it’s interesting, too, the correlation here, there is a parallel, but there’s there’s a very real divergence in these two programs saying, no. Yeah. And, you know, beating that age group over the head with messages that are, you know, don’t do this. This is bad for you. In some ways. It encourages that age group to go out and experiment because they’re curious.

00;44;04;21 – 00;44;07;00

Speaker 1: You’re by nature, right? You’re rebellious, are you?

00;44;07;01 – 00;44;09;27

Speaker 2: That’s generally someone. Follow me now.

00;44;10;00 – 00;44;37;05

Speaker 1: Right. You know, whereas coming in with a soft shoe approach and and having the discussion, treating this age group like adults and having that conversation and here are the choices in front of you. These choices may lead down this path, but here’s ways to recognize it. Here are here are some ways to at least deal with these situations when they arise.

00;44;37;07 – 00;45;12;28

Speaker 1: So I think that’s it’s interesting hear that it’s it’s hopeful. And I think in all of this I think as people who are out in the community talking about problem gambling, I always try to maintain a sense of hope about gambling. Yes. It’s not a doom and gloom scenario. It’s something that can be identified and overcome if it if it is a challenge, if it’s causing an individual harm in their own life, it can be overcome and we can veer away from the harm in the future.

00;45;13;03 – 00;45;22;04

Speaker 1: Yeah, but there is hope at the end of that at the end of the day, and it sounds like this has the same message to it.

00;45;22;06 – 00;45;53;02

Speaker 2: Read does it? It’s really, I would say, paramount to include the hope and recovery aspect into any of this because the main goal of this is to prevent and educate before and bring whatever turn into problem gambling. But if it dies, there is still hope, there is still recovery, there is still a life. After this, you can actually recoup some of the things that you’ve lost, especially if it comes to your relationships, finances, If you’re not gambling anymore, and just realizing that you actually can heal from something that could potentially be really traumatic.

00;45;53;08 – 00;46;08;08

Speaker 2: I do think that having that hope and that faith and belief piece is very important, especially if those ads are out there telling you to believe in yourself for gambling, you’d hope that treatment centers and providers like us doing programs like this can also instill that sense of hope in a different way for them.

00;46;08;13 – 00;46;18;23

Speaker 1: Right. Well, Chris, thanks again. It’s been a pleasure having you on Wager danger today. Anybody wants to get in touch with you, how can they reach you? Chris?

00;46;18;25 – 00;46;31;19

Speaker 2: They can go to WW Dot way back end with two ends, dawg. That’s way back in, dawg. Or you could also email. I don’t know if anyone be able to write this down or text it to themselves on.

00;46;31;22 – 00;46;34;10

Speaker 1: The in the show notes.

00;46;34;12 – 00;46;55;14

Speaker 2: That would be perfect so you could email WB. I am way back in accord with any sort of inquiry. If you go to the website you also find her phone number and we’re here to chat. Anything would be free and confidential. We could just talk to you about any situation going on or if a loved one struggling. And that’s a really key important piece too, is that even if it’s not you, it could be someone else and they might need that kind of help that you might be able to provide.

00;46;55;14 – 00;47;22;20

Speaker 2: If you start to learn how to ask for those really important questions. And another place to just a plug, because I think it’s really important is the Illinois Help Line website. Are you really winning? Okay. You can actually find a lot of the information that we talked about today. You can find the stack deck trainings that become available through the Illinois counsel problem gambling, as well as just seeing all the different resources that exist for you and your loved ones and for your community to actually take the gambling needs assessment, which is available on that website.

00;47;22;20 – 00;47;37;19

Speaker 2: But they give you really important infographics which are just like digital pictures of all the different facts that you could know when it comes to youth and adults in different populations that are more susceptible to problem gambling and just really gives you a good glimpse at that hope and that help that is available to you.

00;47;37;22 – 00;47;41;21

Speaker 1: Perfect. All right. Thanks again, Chris.

00;47;41;23 – 00;47;45;07

Speaker 2: Thank you. Say saying it was a blast. As always.

00;47;45;10 – 00;48;19;19

Speaker 1: We love hearing from you. So please take a moment to like, share and comment on our podcast. You can reach out to us directly via email at Wager Danger at Gateway Foundation and Talk. Look for us on Facebook and Twitter at Recovery Gateway on LinkedIn, at Gateway Dash Foundation or through our website at Gateway Foundation. Dot org Wager Danger is supported through funding in whole or in part through a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Division of Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery.

00;48;19;21 – 00;48;35;19

Speaker 1: And remember, recovery is a lifelong process. If you are a family member struggling with a gambling problem, call Gateway at 8449753663 and speak with one of our counselors for a confidential assessment assessment.

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