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'Be a Grinch': Snatch scratch tickets from children's stockings, B.C. lottery officials say

Stockings stuffed with scratch-and-win tickets are seen in a handout photo from the B.C. Lottery Corporation. Stockings stuffed with scratch-and-win tickets are seen in a handout photo from the B.C. Lottery Corporation.
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Scratch-and-win tickets are a common stocking stuffer for many B.C. families – but officials warn giving them to children could lead to gambling problems later in life.

Studies have found the average problem gambler started gambling at age 10, according to the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

In a news release, the BCLC offered a simple message for parents and guardians this holiday season: "It's OK to be a Grinch when it comes to removing lottery products from kids' shopping lists and stockings."

The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems at McGill University has been highlighting the risks of letting children play lottery games for decades, describing underage gambling as a "significant" public health issue.

Researchers believe up to six per cent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 are already impacted by problem gambling, officials said.

Part of the problem is that children and teenagers tend to have poorer judgment than adults, and generally don't understand how lottery games work – or the risks associated with playing them.

Ryan McCarthy, the BCLC's director of player health, encouraged parents to speak with their children about those dangers.

"It’s never too early to start the conversation. While kids and gambling don’t mix, many teenagers are already doing it by betting on things like a card game," McCarthy said in a statement.

He described the purchasing of "loot boxes" in video games as another form of betting that could lead to problems for children.

McCarthy suggested that families speak with their kids about the warning signs of a gambling problem – such as hiding debt – and urged parents to lead by example.

More guidance on speaking to children about gambling is available on the BCLC's GameSense website

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