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New report indicates 450,000 children gamble every week

30 November 2016

Parents and guardians are being warned to be vigilant following publication of a new report indicating that 450,000 children are gambling in England and Wales every week.

The Gambling Commission’s Young People and Gambling Report also shows that around 9,000 of these are likely to be problem gamblers.

The findings indicate that the overall rate of gambling among 11-15 year olds is around 16%. This figure compares to 5% of 11-15 year olds who have smoked and 8% who have drunk alcohol in the last week, while 6% have taken drugs in the last month.

Tim Miller, Gambling Commission executive director, said “We’re often reminded to discuss the risks of drinking, drugs and smoking with our children. However our research shows that children are twice as likely to gamble than do any of those things.

“We want to reassure parents that our rules require gambling businesses to prevent and tackle underage gambling and we take firm action where young people are not properly protected.

“We recognise that there are some gambling activities in which young people are legally permitted to partake - such as using a crane machine to win a toy, or betting between friends. But we would encourage parents to speak to their children about the risks associated with gambling, so that if they choose to gamble in adulthood, they will do so in a safe and responsible way.”

Headline findings include:

  • The overall rate of gambling among 11-15 year olds has remained relatively static over time, whilst smoking, drinking alcohol and drug taking has seen a decline.
  • The proportion of 12-15 year olds classified as problem gamblers is 0.4%, a similar figure to the previous year.
  • Gambling in the week prior to taking part in the study was twice as prevalent among boys (21%) than among girls (11%).
  • 75% of 11-15 year olds have seen gambling advertisements on TV and 63% have seen these on social media websites.
  • Of those surveyed, almost 60% agreed that ‘gambling is dangerous’.
  • The most popular forms of gambling continue to be fruit machines, placing a private bet with friends and National Lottery scratchcards.
  • 8% of 11-15 year olds had gambled on a commercial premises in the last week, including betting shops, bingo halls and arcades.
  • Of those who played the National Lottery, the tickets/scratchcards were typically purchased by a parent/guardian.
  • 3% of 11-15 year olds have at some point spent their own money on online gambling
  • 6% have at some point gambled online using their parents’ accounts (either with or without permission).

Read Young People and Gambling 2016 report (opens in new tab).

Note to editors

  1. Health & Social Care Information Centre (2015) Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England – 2014. (opens in new tab).
  2. More information about how we regulate the gambling industry.
  3. Useful statistics on the gambling industry.

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

Last updated: 2 February 2021

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