Gambling Commission report reveals how UK children are exposed to gambling

  • Updated
  • By Max Wright
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The Gambling Commission (GC) has recently published the results of a survey in which children aged 11-16 were asked about their exposure to gambling and whether it was an activity they had recently taken part in. 

Keeping our kids safe from harmful activities is a priority for parents worldwide. Gambling can be a fun pastime for responsible adults, but we really don’t want children picking up gambling habits before they fully understand the potential consequences. 

The data raises some interesting points and questions, though maybe the most prominent is: Should you be worried about your children being exposed to gambling?

According to the GC’s survey, 11% of children had gambled in the past seven days, and 36% had gambled in some form in the past 12 months. This isn’t to say that there are children filling casinos across the country, but fruit/slot machines, gambling privately between friends and the national lottery/scratch cards are all cited as sources of underage gambling. 

It’s hard to regulate private bets between friends, however, under 18s getting access to unsupervised slot machines in pubs, arcades and family parks is a clear failure by the license holders.

It’s arguable that kids are exposed to gambling all the time, with 69% of those surveyed having seen advertisements or sponsorships for gambling companies. Worryingly, 11% say they have received marketing for gambling websites directly into their inbox.

The rise of randomised loot boxes in online video games has called into question whether they should be regulated as gambling. 52% of those surveyed say that they are aware of these in-game items, and 44% have paid to open a loot box, with no idea what prize was inside. These may not be considered gambling officially, but what effect could these gambling-like activities have on children and should you be worried that your children are exposed to it?

Well, as it turns out, the number of children surveyed that had gambled in the last 12 months has actually dropped year on year, from 39% in 2018 to 36% in 2019. The number who had gambled in the last seven days has also dropped from 14% in 2018 to 11% in 2019. This downward trend could be down to a clamp-down by the GC on pubs, as only 11% of those surveyed spent money on slot machines, down from 21% in 2018.

Key Findings

  • 11% of 11-16 year olds say they spent their own money on gambling activities in the seven days prior to taking part in the survey. This is down from 14% in 2018.
  • 4% of 11-16 year olds report playing on fruit or slot machines in the past seven days.
  • 3% of 11- 16 year olds say they have played National Lottery scratchcards and 2% say they have played the Lotto (the main National Lottery) draw in the past seven days.
  • 11% of 11 -16 years olds say they have gambled in the past seven days. This is compared to 16% who said they had drunk an alcoholic drink in the past week, 7% who had used an e-cigarette, 6% who had smoked a tobacco cigarette and 5% who had taken illegal drugs (including cannabis).

2,943 pupils between the ages of 11-16 were surveyed by Ipsos MORI for the purposes of this study. 606 schools across Great Britain were selected at random, with 124 eventually taking part.

If you are worried about responsible gambling or want to know how to help someone deal with a gambling addiction, read our playing guides.