GC reveals decline in underage gambling

23 October 2019

The GB Gambling Commission has called for ongoing industry cooperation to continue to tackle underage gambling after a new report from the regulator highlighted a decline in the number of 11 to 16 year olds taking part in gambling activities.

Based on the responses of 2,943 UK 11 to 16 year olds, the Young People and Gambling Survey 2019 found that 11% had spent their own money on gambling in the seven days prior to the survey, down from 14% in 2018.

Some 36% of respondents said they had spent money on gambling during the past 12 months, down from 39% in the previous year, though the percentage of respondents classed as problem gamblers remained level at 1.7%. The majority of those surveyed (89%) said they had not gambled in any form over the past year.

However, the Commission said that as youngsters are still accessing gambling services, the industry must continue to work with the regulator, government, charities, teachers and parents to address the issue.

“This report demonstrates that children and young people’s interaction with gambling or gambling behaviours comes from [two] sources – gambling on age-restricted products and gambling style games,” the Commission’s executive director Tim Miller said. 

“Any child or young person that experiences harm from these areas is a concern to us and we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect them from gambling harms.

“Most of the gambling covered by the report takes place in ways which the law permits, but we must keep working to prevent children and young people from having access to age restricted products.”

The report also revealed that 5% had placed a private bet with friends in the past seven days, while 3% played cards for money, 4% played slot machines, 3% bought National Lottery scratchcards and 2% played the National Lottery.

For online gambling, 5% said they had played online using their parents’ account with permission during the past year, while 7% admitting to gambling online at some point in their lives.

The survey also found that 12% of respondents had played an online gambling-style game, such as a social casino app, with 47% doing so through an app. Some 44% of youngsters said they had paid money to open loot boxes to get other in-game items, while 6% said that they have bet with in-game items.

Of those who paid money to open loot boxes and similar items, 34% said that they were given money by parents or relatives to specifically buy a loot box or pack.

This week, the Children’s Commissioner for England called on the Government to introduce tighter laws to protect children when gaming online after a new report found some youngsters are spending hundreds of pounds on in-game purchases via loot boxes.

“We have been raising awareness about where risks may arise from gambling-style games such as loot boxes and social casino games for some time,” Miller said. “Even though we don’t have regulatory control in this area we are actively engaging with the games industry and social media platforms to look at ways to protect children and young people.

“Protecting children and young people from gambling harms is a collective responsibility and requires us, other regulators, the government, gambling operators, charities, teachers and parents to work together to make progress.”

The survey also flagged concerns with marketing, as 69% of 11-16 year olds said they had seen or heard gambling adverts or sponsorship, though 83% said it had not prompted them to gamble. Some 11% of respondents also said that they had received some form of direct marketing from a gambling operator.

The GC noted a relatively adequate understanding of the risks of gambling, with 60% of respondents saying they were aware of the potential harms, and 59% agreeing gambling could be dangerous. Only 7% said it was fine for someone their age to gamble once a week.

Half of all respondents said someone had spoken to them about the problems that gambling can lead to, with 23% saying their parents set rules for gambling, and 20% revealing they do not have set rules for gambling.

Gambling was only second to alcohol in terms of underage use in the past seven days, with alcohol on 16% and gambling 11%. E-cigarettes followed with 7%, then tobacco cigarettes on 6% followed by illegal drugs with 5%.

The report comes after the GC last week also called for pubs across England and Wales to take further action to stop under-18s from playing Category C gaming machines after a review found 84% failed to prevent such underage gambling.