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Gambling Commission publishes report on children and gambling trends.

21 November 2018

The Gambling Commission has said stronger partnerships are needed to protect children following a new report published today.

The gambling regulator has called for regulators and businesses across industries to work together, but the research also shows the important influence parents can have on children’s gambling behaviour.

This year’s Young People and Gambling report reveals that gambling participation by 11 to 16 year olds has increased in the last 12 months but remains lower compared to all previous years. However, the research indicated that more children are at risk of being harmed by gambling.

The report identifies the most common gambling activities that children are engaging in are often outside of the Gambling Commission's direct regulatory control - such as bets between friends, lottery scratch cards purchased by parents and playing of fruit machines in pubs. It highlights the need for a more collaborative proactive approach to protect young people.

Despite the increase in problem gambling rates the report found that only 19% of children said their parents had set strict rules about gambling.

Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said: “Protecting children from the harms that can come from gambling remains one of our highest priorities. In the areas we have regulatory control, we continue to strengthen the protections in place to prevent underage gambling, such as our recent proposals for enhanced age verifications checks for online gambling.”

“But regulation alone cannot address all of the risks that young people may face from gambling. Our latest research shows that the most common forms of gambling by children do not happen in gambling premises. Some of these are legal, such as bets between friends; some of these are unlawful, such as gambling on machines in pubs. But all of them present risks to young people as there is no form of gambling that is risk-free. It is therefore vital that all those with a part to play in protecting children and young people - parents, businesses and regulators - work together.”

Last week, the Commission called on the pubs industry to take urgent action following serious failures to stop children playing on 18+ gaming machines. In addition, in September 17 global gambling regulators teamed up with the Commission to work together to address the risks created by the blurring of lines between video games, social gaming and gambling. The Commission is also currently consulting on strengthening age verification processes.

Key findings

  • 14% of 11-16 year olds had spent their own money on gambling in the past week, this is up from 12% in 2017 but still lower than rates seen prior to 2017
  • This compared to 13% who had drunk alcohol in the past week, 4% who had smoked cigarettes and 2% who had taken illegal drugs
  • The principal forms of gambling in the past week are placing a private bet for money with friends (6%), National Lottery scratchcards (4%), fruit/slot machines (3%) and playing cards for money with friends (3%)
  • Young people who have gambled in the past week spent an average of £16 on gambling during this period
  • Over the past 12 months, 39% of 11-16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling
  • 6% have gambled online using a parent or guardian’s account
  • 31% have ever opened loot boxes in a computer game or app, to try to acquire in-game items, while 3% claim to have ever bet with in-game items (so called ‘skins’ gambling)
  • 59% agree that gambling is dangerous and only 14% agree that it is OK for someone their age to gamble
  • Around half (49%) of respondents said that someone had spoken to them about the problems that gambling can lead to, with the conversation typically taking place with a parent (40%) or teacher (21%).
  • 60% of young people think their parents would prefer them not to gamble at all, however only 19% stated that their parents set strict rules about gambling with no negotiation
  • 1.7% of 11-16 year olds are classified as ‘problem’ gamblers, 2.2% as ‘at risk’

Young people and gambling 2018 (PDF) (opens in new tab)

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Last updated: 19 December 2022

Show updates to this content

Following an audit the 'Young people and gambling 2018 (PDF)' link has been updated.

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