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Evidence theme 1 - Early gambling experiences and gateway products

Evidence theme 1 - Early gambling experiences and gateway products

This theme is about:

  • understanding the gambling behaviours of children (under 16 years old), young people (those aged 16 and 17 years old) and young adults (18 to 24 years old) and what their journeys into gambling look like
  • how other consumers such as adults, including those with vulnerabilities, are introduced to gambling and how this influences their behaviour
  • how consumers engage with new products and activities that are not gambling but have similarities to gambling.

The Commission’s Path to Play research highlighted the impact of ‘passive influences’ on people’s gambling, with underlying attitudes and perceptions of gambling having an overarching impact on consideration and experience of play. These passive influences evolve gradually over time, starting with people’s early gambling experiences.

Young people have increased vulnerability to gambling-related harm due to their evolving biological and neurological development.3 This state of increased risk is recognised through age restrictions that limit access to activities within the regulated gambling market such as betting, attending casinos and playing National Lottery products. However, there are also activities which are assessed as being lower-risk and do not have age restrictions, such as ‘penny-push’ machines in arcades. Our young people and gambling research found that these products (which have been associated with adult gambling4) and activities that cannot be regulated, such as placing bets with friends or family, are often an individual’s first interaction with gambling.

The impact of activities that are gambling-adjacent or blur the line between gambling and gaming – an example of which may be loot box features in computer games, are also relevant factors, especially given fast-paced changes in consumer behaviour.5 There is also an interest in the long-term impact of gambling advertising, our young people and gambling research shows that it is widely seen, and concerns have been raised about a ‘normalising’ effect.6

Within Great Britain, our research with children up to the age of 16 shows that informal gambling participation, such as picking numbers for a lottery ticket and sweepstakes with family or friends for events such as the Grand National is common. We also know that any participation in regulated gambling activities predominantly occurs with the supervision of a parent or guardian.

Although we know that passive influences can impact somebody’s decision to gamble, it can be difficult to determine the extent of early gambling experiences within those influences compared to more recent gambling experiences of themselves and others, or the impact of advertising, for example. Longitudinal evidence in Britain suggests that gambling activity can increase or decrease significantly in early adulthood (between the ages of 17 and 21) when many individuals experience greater social and financial freedoms.7, 8 Observations in other jurisdictions show that recovery from gambling problems occurs frequently.9

Getting an understanding of commonalities in early gambling experiences, especially where it might be associated with risky or harmful gambling, could be extremely impactful for strengthening harm-reduction measures for different, identified groups, or for targeting educational activities.

Research with a longitudinal aspect that establishes patterns in gambling behaviour over time would aid our understanding of this theme, as would linked operator data with a focus on younger gamblers for the exploration of patterns in remote, regulated gambling.

Example research questions within this theme

These are the type of questions that could be considered in relation to this theme:

  • What prompts different people to start gambling?
  • How does gambling behaviour change over time as children become young people and young adults?
  • What is the impact of major betting events, such as the World Cup or Grand National, on new gamblers?

Evidence theme 1 - What the Gambling Commission will focus on

To better understand early gambling experiences and gateway products, the Commission will focus on:


3 Neurodevelopment, impulsivity, and adolescent gambling (opens in new tab), R A Chambers and Marc N Potenza, Journal of Gambling Studies, volume 19, 2003, pages 53 to 84.

4 Childhood use of coin pusher and crane grab machines, and adult gambling: A conceptual replication of Newall et al. (2021) (opens in new tab), A Parrado-González and P W Newall, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2023.

5 Video game loot boxes are linked to problem gambling: Results of a large-scale survey (opens in new tab), D Zendle and P Cairns, PloS one, 13(11), e0206767, 2018.

6 What is the evidence that advertising policies could have an impact on gambling-related harms? A systematic umbrella review of the literature (opens in new tab), E McGrane, H Wardle, M Clowes, L Blank, R Pryce, M Field and E Goyder, Public Health, 2023.

7 Gambling and problem gambling among young adults: Insights from a longitudinal study of parents and children (opens in new tab) (PDF), D Forrest and I G McHale, report for GambleAware, 2018.

8 A longitudinal study of gambling in late adolescence and early adulthood: Follow-up assessment at 24 years (opens in new tab) (PDF), Alan Emond, Mark D Griffiths and Linda Hollén, report for GambleAware, 2019.

9 Recovery from problem gambling: Results from the in-depth Swelogs study (opens in new tab) (PDF), Folkhälsomyndigheten, 2016.

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Our evidence themes and how they link to the Path to Play framework
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Evidence theme 2 - The range and variability of gambling experiences
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