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Gambling Commission publishes new research which explores the gambling journeys and behaviours of young people

05 August 2021

The Gambling Commission has published new research which explores the gambling journeys and behaviours of young people and adults aged 16 to 30.

The research, delivered by global insights agency 2CV, was conducted using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, which allowed the Commission to further explore the views of this demographic in their own words and reflecting their own voice.

This research supplements the Commission’s wider research programme to understand the experiences of children, young people and vulnerable adults - with the findings adding a deeper insight to the Commission’s work.

The key findings of the 2CV research show that amongst the research participants:

  • engagement with gambling throughout childhood and early adulthood aligned to a familiar set of life events and milestones, such as family holidays, first jobs and increasing financial independence
  • engaging with gambling or gambling-style activities during childhood was common, but participation was primarily a product of being present or involved with other people’s gambling, rather than proactive underage gambling
  • for some, exposure to the positive and negative extremes of gambling (e.g. witnessing big wins or big losses, or being exposed to very positive or very negative attitudes about gambling) at an early age led to an increased interest in gambling in later life, and in some cases riskier or more harmful gambling behaviour
  • friends and family played a hugely influential role in shaping gambling behaviour, whilst advertising and marketing played a lesser role in influencing young people’s tendency to gamble, acting as a trigger or nudge to play as opposed to the reason to start gambling
  • young people were most vulnerable to experiencing gambling harm after achieving independence from their parents
  • as people grew older gambling behaviour did not stay the same; rather it fluctuated according to personal (and peer) experiences of wins and losses, and alongside changes in lifestyle and responsibility.

Tim Miller, Executive Director of the Gambling Commission said: “Protecting consumers is at the heart of everything we do, and it is important we understand the ways in which children and young people gain exposure to gambling, the products they are playing, and what factors influence their relationship with gambling.

“This latest research forms an important part of our ongoing and wider research programme into gambling behaviours and latest trends across Great Britain. Action to protect consumers should be led by evidence and today’s research publication provides important insights specifically into the ways that children and young people can be protected from gambling harms.”

The Commission publishes official statistics each year about the gambling behaviour of children and young people aged 11-16 in Great Britain as part of our Young People and Gambling Survey. However, due to the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, our fieldwork for the 2021 survey was postponed.

To continue to advance our knowledge about children and young people’s gambling behaviour, we commissioned smaller, alternative pieces of research which utilise a different methodology and do not rely on pupils being in schools.

It is important to note that the findings we have published today are qualitative and quantitative in nature and do not constitute a replacement for the official statistics, which will resume in 2022.

The Commission’s role and next steps

Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling is at the heart of our work, and it is vital for us to understand the factors that influence gambling behaviour so we can focus on preventing harm before it occurs. We will be considering these new findings as part of our wider evidence base around young people and gambling.

In addition, whilst the research we have published today does not constitute a replacement for the official statistics, they do provide us with the opportunity to delve into certain areas of gambling behaviour in more detail, allowing us to ensure the questioning in our official statistics survey is reflective of current youth trends. Further work to refine our approach to collecting official statistics on young people and gambling will be ongoing over the summer.

These findings are in addition to other measures we have implemented to protect consumers from gambling harm. These include strengthened protections around online age and ID verification and customer interaction, banning gambling on credit cards, and the implementation of new rules to stamp out irresponsible ‘VIP customer’ practices.

The research has also revealed a number of insights which we feel would be relevant to other stakeholders, particularly those involved in the provision of education and preventative measures to young people. The Commission will be communicating with those groups.

The full findings can be viewed on our website under exploring the gambling journeys of young people.

Note to editors

More about our approach to Statistics and Research

Gambling Commission Statistics and Research hub.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.


Last updated: 6 August 2021

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