You are here

Gambling and children - a problem?


The background...

For most adults, gambling is fun and doesn’t have any negative consequences.

In 2013, more than 75% of the UK adult population gambled in some form. Only 0.7% of gamblers had a problem with their gambling.

While this is a small proportion, it's still 600,000 people. And gambling is the fastest-growing addiction, both in the UK and globally.

Gambling is a hidden addiction - unlike drugs and drink, there’s no substance that causes negative physical effects. Gamblers can get addicted on the quiet, unnoticed by other people - after all, it takes only 12 seconds to log onto a tablet or smartphone and place an online bet. 

Children and gambling

Licensed bookmakers are under an obligation to stop anyone under 18 betting in their shops or even entering their premises. 

Broadly, under-18s are not allowed by law to gamble, though young people aged over 16 may use some gaming machines (with no more than £10 prizes) and play the lottery.

In practice, though, 15% if 11-15 year olds report having gambled in the last week.1

Problem gambling rates are higher among young gamblers than among adult gamblers.2

It is estimated that 2% of 11-15 year-olds are problem gamblers.3

Internet gambling - while technically restricted to over 18s - means that some children are able to gamble by lying about their age. 

Before 2005, 1 in 300 television advertisements was for gambling; now the ratio is around 1:20. Betting is increasingly integral to sport: at a typical football match a child will be exposed to 23 gambling advertisements - in stadium names, shirt sponsors, from bookmakers and in ads on the side of pitches.4

Problem gambling isn’t covered in the National Curriculum, unlike addiction to drink or drugs.

Adult gamblers can face problems including debt (sometimes driving them to criminal activity), loss of employment, family difficulties and poor mental health. Harm to young people may be similar - with, instead of job loss, truancy and poor performance at school.

Starting to gamble early is one of the risk factors for becoming a problem gambler in adulthood.5

Other risk factors include being male, being an only child, having more disposable income (pocket money etc.) and having parents who gamble.6

In spite of all this, repeated studies show that gambling is a long way down parents' lists of concerns.7