BEDFORD, Va. (WFXR) — Horizon Behavioral Health is urging people not to gift lottery tickets this year to raise awareness of gambling addictions, particularly in youth.

Mikayla Zook, a prevention specialist at Horizon, says many youths report their first exposure to gambling is around the age of nine to 11 years old, and 60 percent of high school students say they’ve gambled in the last year. Zook says the goal of their initiative is simple.

“Avoid some of the risks of problem gambling and decreasing the exposure that youth can have at a young age by decreasing the amount of lottery tickets given as gifts,” she said.

The National Council of Problem Gambling reports a higher rate of addictive gambling in adolescents than adults. Virginia Lottery is backing up the message, reminding the Commonwealth that it is against the law to gift lottery tickets to anyone under the age of 18.