"What's the Danger?"

As on college campuses, most high school students are playing cards totally unaware of the potential pitfalls from gambling. At Fort Lee High School in New Jersey, we spoke to a few students in-between classes.

One student tells us, "People play cards, but I don't think gambling is a major problem."

"I don't think anyone's using it to make money," says another. "I think it's more just a social thing; people playing for fun."

A third student adds, "People don't really see gambling as being dangerous. I mean what's the danger? You see the outcomes of alcohol or drugs or unsafe sex. And there is an outcome there that you see in and it's like, 'Danger, danger.' But gambling is just like having fun."

There's actually very little known about the dangers of gambling within the education establishment. None of the students at Fort Lee had heard of any awareness campaigns by the school or the local government warning kids about the potential dangers of gambling.

Jay Burman, Fort Lee High School's principal, says this is because gambling is not taken seriously as a problem affecting high school students.

"I don't really think it's out there as a professional issue for administrators of high schools," says Burman. "I subscribe to numerous professional journals and I attend conferences. Not one of them has ever raised this as an issue, gambling addictions in high school. I don't know if it's because we don't think it's prevalent or it's just not out there. But it has never been raised as an issue, although the other types of addictions have been."

The kids in Fort Lee High School all receive education about the dangers of drugs and of alcohol, but nothing about gambling. Burman says this is because gambling is such a new phenomenon and schools have been caught unawares.

"I think those issues [alcohol and drugs] have always been on the radar screen for high school administrators because they have been age-old problems we're addressing. But I think gambling is a new kind of addiction that we're seeing here and is becoming a greater blip on the radar screen and I think it's something we do need to take a look at and see the prevalence of it and investigate and see if we do need to put some programs in place at the high school. And I think it's something I will address in the future."

It's a message that Ryan, the young gambler we met in New York City, would endorse.

"When I was in high school," says Ryan, "I had people come and speak about what alcohol could do, but there was never anybody who came and said this is what gambling can do to you. This is the depths that gambling can bring you to. That might have helped me in terms of educating me about the perils of gambling."

Despite the dangers of gambling, most young people have no idea that they're at greater risk than older gamblers of becoming addicted. They see gambling as fun and glamorous. That's thanks in no small part to aggressive marketing from online poker sites.

In a basement room at the College of St. Scholastica in the northern Minnesota city of Duluth, half a dozen students sit around a cafeteria table, peering at their cards and stacking their chips. It's a regular poker game organized by Duluthpoker.com, a Web site run by St. Scholastica's answer to Donald Trump: a poker entrepreneur and 20-year-old student who goes by the name of Mac.

Mac is funding his college education by running a Web site offering help and advice to wannabe poker stars.

He's also in much demand by the major Internet gambling sites.

"One of the online poker rooms that contacted me to be their campus representative is AbsolutePoker.com," says Mac. "And what they did for me was offer me free money in some poker games. What they would do is they would put $50 or $75 or $100 in the pot and have me and my friends get together and play for this pot, but there would be no entry fee to us. And they would award the money into our AbsolutePoker accounts. And I think AbsolutePoker does this so that players will get experience on their Web site so they can get a lot of the market share for college campuses. They specifically target college kids because they know it's a good market, it's a lucrative market. There are a lot of young players who have a lifetime of playing."


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