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Statistics and research release

Exploring the gambling journeys of young people

Research on the gambling journeys of young people

Summary

This research was designed to explore the gambling journeys and current behaviours of young people and understand their perspective on gambling during childhood. This research supplements our wider programme of work to understand the experiences of children and young people.

Details

Key Findings

  • engagement with gambling throughout childhood and early adulthood aligns 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 is common, but participation is primarily passive
  • 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 can lead to an increased interest in gambling in later life, and in some cases riskier or more harmful gambling behaviour
  • friends and family played an influential role in shaping gambling behaviour, whilst advertising and marketing has less of an influence on young people’s tendency to gamble
  • young people are most vulnerable to experiencing gambling harm after achieving independence from their parents and moving out of home
  • as people grow older gambling behaviour does not stay the same, rather it fluctuates according to personal (and peer) experiences of wins and losses, and alongside changes in lifestyle and responsibility.

Introduction

In early 2021 we commissioned 2CV to conduct a piece of research as part of our ongoing work to bring the voice of the consumer into our thinking. The aim was to explore the gambling journeys and current behaviours of young people and young adults, and take a retrospective look at how respondents interacted with gambling during their childhood. This was driven by evidence suggesting that younger people can be at greater risk of gambling harm. The research was designed to add deeper insights to our wider research conducted with children and young adults.

The research was conducted in two stages that ran sequentially. 30 participants aged 16-30 took part in an online community which was held over 10 days and involved a range of tasks and exercises exploring their gambling journey, influences and attitudes. All had gambled in the last 12 months on a range of activities and had a variety of gambling behaviours. The community had an even split of male and female participants, and a mix of different ages, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and problem gambling status according to the full PGSI.

This was followed by an online survey, in which 962 respondents aged 16-25 were asked a range of questions about their current gambling behaviour, experiences during childhood, and their journey into gambling. Nationally representative quotas were applied on gender and region to ensure a representative spread of gamblers in the sample, however PGSI scores are likely to have been affected by the online methodology resulting in possible over representation in the sample compared to our core statistical surveys.

About our Consumer Voice research

We use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to gather views, opinions and insights from gambling consumers. This work complements our official nationally representative statistics on gambling participation and the prevalence of problem gambling but goes into more depth on key issues and emerging areas of interest. Our Consumer Voice research is currently conducted by 2CV, who use a combination of online surveys and online community panels to tap into the voice of gambling consumers and those affected by gambling in Great Britain.

Engagement with gambling throughout childhood and early adulthood aligns to a familiar set of life milestones, such as family holidays, first jobs and increasing financial independence

Changes in lifestyle and exposure to new gambling experiences can have a significant impact on gambling behaviour.

  1. 5 to 10 years

    the image shows a cartoon style person with blonde hair wearing a blue t-shirt

    Typical gambling experiences

    Early experiences of gambling tend to be playing on penny push/arcade machines and private betting with family members.

    Milestons and Life events

    Family holidays, Family events (Grand National and other large events)

  2. 11 to 15 years

    the image shows a cartoon style female with black hair wearing a red hair band and t-shirt

    Typical gambling experiences

    Family supervised participate in scratchcards, lotteries or bingo - some may participate in sports betting or IWG's.

    Milestons and Life events

    Widened pool of family supervision, Increased likelihood of passive exposure

  3. 16 to 17 years

    the image shows a cartoon style female with brown hair wearing a black t-shirt

    Typical gambling experiences

    Early legal experiences of gambling - scratchcard and lottery play. Desire to play is driven by peer influence and exposure to play when underage.

    Milestons and Life events

    Limited legal access to gamble at 16, First jobs and increased disposable income

  4. 18 to 21 years

    the image shows a cartoon style person with blonde hair wearing a pink t-shirt

    Typical gambling experiences

    Reaching fully legal age results in exposure and trial of new gambling types previously off limits or harder to access - especially sports betting and casino.

    Milestons and Life events

    Full legal access to gamble, Increased financial independence

  5. 22 to 30 years

    the image shows a cartoon style male with brown hair wearing a green t-shirt

    Typical gambling experiences

    Less 'new' gambling experience means less exciting. Likely to have experienced highs (wins) and lows (losses) - play becomes more restrained towards late twenties.

    Milestons and Life events

    Increased responsibilities and overheads (rent and bills), Less of a novelty

Engaging with gambling or gambling style activities during childhood is common, but participation is primarily passive

It is typically a product of being present or involved with other people’s gambling, rather than actively ‘faking’ age to gamble underage. This can include selecting lottery numbers, scratching Scratchcards or choosing a horse for a family member to bet on. Most felt that their upbringing had contributed to a view of gambling as ‘a fun treat’ – but did not feel they were actively encouraged to gamble by their parents at any age.

“When I was a kid I liked to pick numbers for the lottery and scratch off a scratch card for my parents but it was never a big deal” – Female, 30, PGSI 3-7

Exposure to gambling at an early age can lead to an increased interest in gambling in later life

However, simply being exposed or involved isn’t influential on its own and does not necessarily lead to problematic gambling. Indeed, most people who are involved in gambling during childhood and who go on to gamble later in life do so without experiencing problems. It’s the positive and negative extremes of gambling that can, in some cases, lead to riskier gambling behaviour or problem gambling in later life – for example witnessing other people’s big wins or big losses, or having parents who have either very positive or very negative views about gambling. Active encouragement by parents to gamble, and having parents who gamble frequently, are also influential.

Family influence growing up (strongly / slightly agree) - The graph shows 4 main categories, the first 3 categories are then split into two subcategories each.  There are 7 bar charts in total.

Non - low risk gamblerModerate risk – problem gambler
I knew of someone who won a huge amount of money through gambling36%55%
I knew of someone who lost loads of money through gambling30%49%
My parents / family thought very negatively about gambling32%48%
My parents / family did not allow gambling in the family24%47%
My parents / guardians gambled more than most people8%32%
My parents / family encouraged me to gamble when I became of age9%32%
My parents involved me when they placed bets40%41%

Friends play a hugely influential role in encouraging gambling behaviour

The majority of 16-25 year olds do at least half of their gambling with friends, with likelihood of gambling with friends increasing with higher PGSI scores. Conversely, our wider research has shown that problem gambling in all adults is more often linked to lone gambling. Social gambling experiences can create peer pressure as well as skewing people’s view of what is ‘normal’ gambling behaviour, and some young people feel encouraged by friends to spend and stake more. The role of friends and social gambling can be explored further in our work on gambling typologies and motivations.

Extent of gambling done with friends - The graph shows made up of 4 bars, each of the bars is then broken down into categories. Under the 4 bars is a single horizontal bar that depicts the category of "At least half is done with friends".

Non problem gamblerLow risk gamblerModerate risk gamblerProblem gambler
Almost all my gambling is by myself22%13%10%10%
Most of my gambling is by myself20%33%16%13%
It’s about 50/5031%21%34%34%
Most of my gambling is with friends9%18%16%16%
Almost all my gambling is with friends19%16%14%17%
NET: At least half is done with friends58%55%74%77%

Advertising & marketing play a tertiary role in influencing propensity to gamble

Advertising is primarily a trigger or ‘nudge’ to play as opposed to the reason to start gambling, however more targetable marketing channels – such as social media and email – are more influential.

Young people are most vulnerable after achieving independence from their parents and moving out of home

First jobs, increased disposable income and financial independence coincide with full legal access to gambling, making gambling more accessible and financially viable. Age 19 marks the point where many start to move out of the family home and manage their own finances for the first time. By age 20-21, young people are most at risk of falling into problem gambling as they adjust to their new freedoms. It’s also around this age that budgeting and taking steps to gamble safely (e.g. setting limits) are less likely to feel like a priority.

“I think the main reason I stated actually gambling was the fact I turned 18 and was then able to access the gambling apps and websites. Having a full-time job meant I had actual money to bet with and wasn’t asking my mum for money.” - Female, 18, PGSI 1-2

As people grow older - gambling behaviour tends to fluctuate according to personal (and peer) experiences of wins and losses

Ultimately gambling behaviour is adjusted over time according to ongoing accounting of personal and peer experience. Experience of wins typically results in an increased likelihood to continue gambling, whilst experience of losses results in an overall reduction in frequency of play or stake size. In late twenties people are likely to have increased responsibilities and overheads, and fewer ‘new’ gambling experiences, so gambling becomes less of a novelty.

“The biggest change in my gambling habits was when I met my partner, we were saving to get married and buy a house, so did not have a lot of disposable income to waste.” – Male, 30, PGSI 8+

Key points for further consideration

2CV provided the following key points for further thought:

  1. Education for parents should focus on protecting children from the extremes of gambling (positive and negative experiences) – responsibly modeled play doesn’t appear to have the same impact on people’s future behaviour.
  2. Education for young people on what ‘normal’ play looks like will have wide ranging benefits – enabling young people to more accurately benchmark safe play for themselves, for family and friends.
  3. Education and early exposure to gambling ought to be ‘neutral’ (not overly negative or positive) to minimize risk of unsafe play – e.g. understanding of odds and probability of loss.
  4. A more holistic approach to tackling problem gambling within friendship groups rather than individuals will have a longer lasting benefit – highlighting the influence of friends on play.

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