Study claims one in six Australian 16-17 year-olds gamble

4 December 2019

Just under one in six Australians aged 16-17 gambled in the past year, according to the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children's (LSAC) annual statistical report.

Of the 15.7% of participants who said they gambled, most were boys, with just over 19% of boys and 12% of girls taking part in gambling activities.

Private bets with friends or family - the only legal type of bet a 16 or 17-year-old can partake in - were the most common form of betting, with around one in eight boys and one in twenty girls taking part.

A total of 6% of boys and 3% of girls had bet on sports, while 4% of boys and 3% of girls had bet on horse or dog races.

Around 5% of the overall cohort had played scratchards, while around 3% played lottery game and bingo.

Keno casino table games and poker machines were each played by more than 2% of 16-17 year-olds, despite the fact that proof of age is required for entry into gaming venues where these are offered. The LSAC estimated that this represents around 9,000 17 year olds across Australia playing these games annually.

The LSAC used the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) to estimate that 16.9% of boys who gambled and 3.9% of girls who did so - of 13.1% of the overall group who reported gambling - were either at risk of or already experiencing gambling problems.

Overall, 2.8% of gamblers were identified as already having a problem with their gambling behaviour. While only 1.6% of girls who gambled  were identified as moderate risk and none were identified as having gambling problems, 4.8% of boys who did so were classified as moderate risk and 4.5% had gambling problems.

The PGSI consists of nine areas such as “chasing losses,” “gambling causing health problems” and “feeling guilty about gambling”. Respondents score each area from 0, representing “never,” to 3, representing “almost always”. A score of 8 or more represents a gambling problem.

Just under one in four boys and around one in seven girls who reported drinking alcohol in the past 12 months had also gambled during that time, compared to around one in eight boys and one in 12 girls who had not done so.

Gambling-like electronic games, consisting of social games such as Zynga Poker and Big Fish Casino, were more popular than gambling, with 24% of boys and 15% of girls playing these games. The survey noted that these games, and micro-transactions in console games such as loot boxes, could increase the likelihood of young people progressing to real-money gambling.

The study also found that more than half of parents of 16-17 year-olds gambled in the past year. Just under six out of ten mothers and seven out of ten fathers reported gambling.

Lottery games were the most frequent form of gambling for both mothers and fathers, with 59%% of fathers and 48% of mothers playing. Around a quarter of both mothers and fathers had purchased scratchards, the second most-common gambling activity for both mothers and fathers.

For fathers, betting on horse or dog races were the third most common form of gambling, with 22% doing so, while for mothers, poker machines were more common at 14%, while 11% bet on horse or dog races.

Poker machines were also popular among fathers, with 16% playing, while 12% had played keno, 10% had bet on sports, 9% had bet privately and 7% had played table games.

Among mothers, 8% played keno, while less than 5% took part in poker, bingo and private betting.

Just under one in ten parents of 16-17 year-olds (9.4%) were identified as problem or at-risk gamblers. In total, 0.8% of parents were identified as already having gambling problems, with the vast majority being fathers.

Only 0.1% of mothers were recognised as having gambling problems, while 1.8% of fathers were.