JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Elijah Ballard of St. Louis, MO, a senior at University City High School, is one of four students in Missouri to win the 23rd annual Project 21 Scholarship competition sponsored by the Missouri Gaming Association, the professional organization representing casino operators in Missouri. Ballard will receive a $1,500 scholarship towards tuition at American University in Washington D.C., where he plans to major in political science.
Ballard wrote an article “Gambling Addiction Damages Underage Teens,” which discusses how prevalent and easy online gambling is through unregulated websites. His article received an All-State rating at the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association J Day contest held at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Ballard says he became involved in online gambling at the age of 14 and overcame a gambling addiction.
“In hindsight, I wish I’d known that underage gambling wasn’t an addiction unique to me, but instead a growing addiction for youth. I was not aware of how many people were really affected, and was surprised to find that I was not alone,” said Ballard.
The Project 21 Scholarship was developed to educate young people about the issues and dangers of underage gambling. In Missouri, it’s illegal for persons under the age of 21 to gamble in a casino. The competition is open to all Missouri high school seniors planning to attend an institution of higher education in the United States within four years of graduation.
The students were asked to create an essay/article, poster or video aimed at educating their peers about the illegality and dangers of underage gambling. The entries were published or viewed in the students’ high schools in January or February to help educate other students.
The Missouri Gaming Association awards one $2,500 scholarship and three $1,500 scholarships, jointly issued to the winners and the accredited institutions of higher education they select.
“The Missouri casino industry is dedicated to education in our state, both through the education funding from gaming tax revenues and through awareness efforts like Project 21,” said Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Association. “Young people are influenced mostly by what they hear from their peers, so Project 21 encourages students to learn about the issues of underage gambling and to share that information with their classmates.”
ABOUT MISSOURI GAMING ASSOCIATION
The Missouri Gaming Association (MGA) is the statewide trade association of the Missouri casino entertainment industry. Founded in 1993, the Missouri Gaming Association works to promote responsible gaming and increase awareness of the economic benefits of casinos in Missouri. The MGA and its casino company members sponsor year-round responsible gaming programs including the 1-888-BETSOFF crisis line and referral service, Project 21 scholarship competition, and Responsible Gaming Awareness Week. For more information, visit www.missouricasinos.org.
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