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Lawmakers want to warn kids about gambling addiction

Experts say brain chemistry may change when betting, leading to a compulsion to gamble.

The gambling industry spent more than $488 million in the past year on advertising.

"Get another win with Bet Winner!" says one TV spot. "Register and receive up to 100% bonus on your fist deposit."

Now, state Delegate Sam Rasoul wants Virginia to push back by teaching kids that it’s possible to get addicted to gambling.

“Children and young adults are the fastest-growing segment of gamblers," he says. "I remember a young man in his early 20’s just begging and pleading with us to do something, because he had wasted away every dollar that he had because of his addiction.”

Scientists say winning may cause the brain to release a feel-good chemical called dopamine, and it’s possible to get hooked. In the face of so much pressure to place bets, Rasoul says the state must take action.

“We have drastically expanded the amount of gambling and gambling access we have here in Virginia, even with gambling that we’ve had for such a long time, like the Virginia Lottery," he explains. "We see ads on our Facebook feeds. We are just inundated!"

So far, he says, the industry is not opposing his call to teach children about gambling addiction. House Bill 1108 is before the Education Committee.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.