Life
JM | Jul 2, 2022

Guidance counsellors trained in underage gambling prevention, treatment

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RISE signs MOU with Ministry of Education to address gambling in schools

Underage gambling education and prevention materials developed by RISE Life Management Services have the full attention of representatives of the Ministry of Education and the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC). The three organisations collaborated to deliver underage gambling education prevention and treatment for guidance counsellors of schools from across the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Pictured are Maurice Thompson, director of licensing & registration at the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC); Dasmine Kennedy, director of regional educational services Region 1 at the Ministry of Education and Richard Henry, programme manager for responsible gaming counselling and support services at RISE. (Photo contributed)

Some 100 guidance counsellors from schools in Region 1 (Kingston and St Andrew) are receiving training in the prevention and treatment of gambling disorders to tackle the issue of school-based, under-age gambling.

This is made possible through a recent signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Education and RISE Life Management Services (RISE).

The MOU concretizes an existing relationship between the Ministry of Education and Youth and RISE aimed at addressing the prevalence and incidence of gambling and gambling disorders in schools.

In addition to knowledge and capacity building for teachers and guidance counsellors, the programme encompasses underage gambling prevention sensitisation and education for school-based youth and peer counsellors, as well as treatment services for persons with gambling-related issues.

“Legalised and socially accepted gambling has exploded over the last 15 years with many more games as well as the opportunity to gamble having multiplied tremendously. This coupled with the often unsupervised access to technology and the normalization of gambling as the source of the funds to meet basic needs in the absence of other income has caused an exponential increase in the exposure of the youth to gambling,” explained Richard Henry, programme manager for responsible gaming counselling and support services at RISE Life, substantiating the need for the initiative. 

“The Jamaica Child and Adolescent Gambling Survey (2007) revealed that one out of every five adolescents had a gambling problem or are at risk of developing the problem. This combination of factors propels us to ensure that our children are protected from the potential negative impacts of gambling. Our collaboration with the Ministry of Education enables us to engage directly with the guidance counsellors and teachers from whom we are receiving more and more reports of incidents of gambling in the school environment and appeals for help to address the matter,” Henry elaborated further.

The RISE/Ministry of Education and Youth collaboration is one aspect of Jamaica’s national responsible gambling programme which is implemented by RISE on behalf of and with 100 per cent funding from the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC), the gambling regulator.

RISE operates the only comprehensive programme for individuals with gambling-related problems in Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean.

“At the commission, it is important to us to ensure that gambling in Jamaica is provided in a safe, socially responsible and supportive environment where the potential for harm is minimized and people can make informed and appropriate decisions about their participation in gambling,” said Jeanette Lewis, manager corporate affairs & communications at the BGLC.

“Gambling is an activity for adults only. In order to proactively address the issue of underage gambling, we are working with partners to implement a multipronged approach.  We have commenced a series of workshops with parents in partnership with the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) and RISE, and are now complementing those with the capacity building for guidance counsellors so that they have the knowledge and tools to address the issue that is prevalent in the schools.”

A Jamaican man looking at past Supreme Ventures draws before placing his stakes on a gamble in January 2022. (Photo: Facebook @SVLJA)

Under Section 20B of the Betting Gaming & Lotteries Act, it is illegal for anyone to enable a minor to participate in any form of gambling. Persons found guilty of an offence under this provision of the act are liable on conviction to a fine of up to J$1 million or a term of imprisonment. 

Henry pointed out that international best practices speak to the importance of effective and consistent responsible gambling prevention and treatment programmes as a necessary tool in reducing the incidence and prevalence rates of persons with gambling-related issues. 

The RISE/Ministry of Education and Youth MOU is effective until August 2026.

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