University of Michigan Survey on Teenage Gambling Exposes Knowledge Gap Among Parents

Jessica Aletor
Jessica Aletor


  • A survey conducted by the University of Michigan has revealed that there is a knowledge gap on teenage online gambling presence among American parents.
  • The survey which was released by the C.S. Moot Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that 55% of parents don’t know their state’s legal gambling age.
  • Also, only a quarter of parents discussed online gambling with their teenage. Most parents identified debt and addiction as teenage gambling risks.

Underage gambling has been a prevalent problem in Michigan and the US in general. As far back as 2022, the Michigan Gaming Control Board had been at the forefront of advising parents to combat the menace by speaking to their teenage children.

However, it appears parents are not doing as much as is required. According to a new study by the University of Michigan, there is an alarming lack of awareness among American parents about their teens' exposure to online gambling. Just 2% of parents think their teenagers bet online while another 55% of them do not know the legal gambling age in their respective states.

More Than Half of Parents Think They Can Spot Online Gambling Despite Contrary Evidence 

On Monday, January 23, The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan released its National Poll on Children’s Health. In this survey, the hospital carefully examined gambling activities among a national sample of parents of teenagers in aged 14-18 years. 

According to reports of the study, only 2% of parents believe that their teenage has bet online before. When these results were broken down by gender, parents of teenage boys (3%) were more than parents of teenage girls (0.4%) who claimed that their children have once used an online betting platform.

In contrast, 55% of parents believed that they would most definitely know if their teen was engaged in online betting. Notable issues surfaced, including increased exposure, low access hurdles, and possible short- and long-term problems to the financial and emotional health of kids.

These results shed light on the realities of teen online gambling and gave a good grasp on the urgent need for increased parental education. Since many parents underestimate how common these actions are with their teenagers, this survey was the first step to helping them see things a bit more realistically.

Regarding parent-child conversations on internet gambling, the report reveals a rather surprising outlook. Although 25% of parents have discussed gambling with their teenagers, there was no consensus about the specific subject matter discussed. While 18% discussed potential risks, 12% said they only expressed their personal objection to the activity. Another 4% discussed the high volume of ads and 2% spoke about how to win from internet gambling.

Confusion About Legal Gambling Age Proves Pervasive Even Among Gambling Parents 

The results of the survey show an interesting finding that typifies a serious knowledge gap among parents; despite nearly one-third of them gambling, 55% of parents are ignorant about their state's legal gambling age. Even more disturbing is that 63% of respondents claim to have interacted with an ad promoting an online casino or sportsbook in the preceding 12 months.

As a side note, the Michigan gambling industry has different legal gambling ages depending on whether the gambling was online (21) or in-person (18 or 19 at tribal casinos; 21 at Detroit casinos).

Some parents, however, took advantage of the poll to express their opinions about the permissible legal betting age. 11% of the respondents indicated that online gambling should be completely prohibited, 22% think the gambling age should be between 18-20 while the majority (67%) support 21 as the legal age.

The survey went on to identify potential online betting risks among teenagers. Parents feared that continued gambling for teens could have short-term and long-term problems to the mental and financial well-being of teenage participants. About 83% of respondents voted financial debt as the leading risk among affected children, 77% highlighted addiction while 51% identified a ruined credit score. Only 27% of parents connected online betting as a risk factor for drug or alcohol abuse.

Potential Mitigation Strategies Against Underage Gambling 

Some other questions saw divergent opinions arise from the respondents. Almost half (45%) of the respondents were undecided on the question of whether online gambling was more addictive than retail casino wagering. 12% of parents blatantly disagreed while 44% said they agreed with the position. Similarly, 45% of parents agreed that social betting would reduce the spate of online gambling, 42% were undecided and another 14% registered disagreement.

The survey did not end without an attempt to proffer solutions to the menace of underage gambling. Of the solutions put out, 43% of parents support limiting betting once a particular amount is lost, stressing the value of having financial discipline. Furthermore, 38% suggested having a "parent view" option for online betting accounts to provide proper supervision.

An additional 33% stressed the importance of using image identification to confirm legal age when creating an online betting account to ensure legal compliance. To promote responsible gambling, another one-third recommended capping the amount wagered in a certain period. Notably, and in recognition of the potential severity of the problem, 25% of parents support covering the costs of therapy for children or young people who become addicted to gambling.

Judging from the survey’s implications, ownership of personal mobile devices, credit cards and financial accounts were important determinants of eventual gambling activity. The proliferation of online betting ads has also made it more difficult for teens to ignore the temptation staring them in the face. Overall, these factors can be useful conversation starters for parents to productively speak to their teens and curb the prevalence of underage gambling.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments