Quadrupling of figure in two years branded generational scandal and blamed on TV ads and smartphone apps
A Gambling Commission audit due for release on Wednesday reveals that the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 rose to 55,000 over two years. It also found that 70,000 youngsters were at risk and that 450,000 children bet regularly, the equivalent of one in seven children aged 11 to 16.
A further 70,000 are at risk of getting hooked as young people become increasingly exposed to gambling advertisements on television and the internet, the commission warned. The report found that 450,000 children bet regularly, with one in seven of those in the 11–16 age group. They each spend an average of £16 a week on bingo, fruit machines, in betting shops and online, all of which are illegal for under-18s.
Generational scandal as number of child problem gamblers quadruples to 50000
The audit, reported in the Daily Mail, said the youngsters were staking an average of £16 a week on fruit machines, bingo, betting shops and online games, which are all illegal for under-18s.
The findings were branded deeply concerning by the Church of England, which warned that the country needed to take the dangers of gambling seriously.
Read more The bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, branded the findings that 55,000 children were classed as problem gamblers as a generational scandal.
He added: Todays findings by the Gambling Commission make worrying reading and serve as a warning to parents. After years of progress, it seems the rates of children gambling are creeping back up. These figures suggest 450,000 11- to 16-year-olds have gambled in the past week – that is deeply concerning. We need to start taking the dangers of gambling seriously.
The audit also revealed that children were being inundated with gambling adverts, with two-thirds telling the auditors they had seen them on TV. It said close to a million young people had been exposed to gambling through loot boxes in video games or on smartphone apps. Loot boxes are chance-based items that can be purchased in video games to win prizes and have been likened to poker machines.
The audit found that more children said they had placed a bet in the past week than drank alcohol, smoked or taken drugs.
Smith said the government, local authorities, schools and charities needed to put in place more safeguards to protect children from becoming problem gamblers.
However much the gambling industry says it is not targeting the young, it is clear that a significant minority of teenagers are still being drawn into gambling and it is no coincidence that one in six children have seen gambling adverts on social media, he said. In-game gambling and loot-boxes are a new phenomenon and so require new answers. The world has changed since 2005 when the gambling sector was deregulated and so, sadly, has gambling.
Therefore, government, local authorities, schools, the private and the charitable sector need to study these findings carefully and put in place preventative measures to safeguard young people.
The number of children with gambling problems has quadrupled to more than 50,000 in just two years, a study has shown.
Research by the Gambling Commission indicates there could be a further 70,000 children aged 11 to 16 who are at risk of developing problems.
The research suggests more children placed a bet in the past week than drank alcohol, smoked or took drugs.
The findings, reported by the Daily Mail, were described as a "generational scandal" by the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, a vocal campaigner on the issue.
The watchdog warned that while children were gambling via new technologies, such as apps and online casinos, large numbers are making bets through more conventional means.
Writing in the newspaper, Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller urged people to "sit up and listen".
He wrote: "While discussions about children gambling might conjure up images of kids sneaking into bookies or sitting alone on their iPad gambling on an online casino, our latest research paints a more complex picture.
"The most common activities that children gamble on are not licensed casinos, bingo providers or bookies.
"Instead we found children preferred to gamble in informal environments, out of sight of regulation – private bets between friends or playing cards with their mates for money."
The study found the most common routes into gambling were fruit machines in pubs or arcades and cash bets with friends, but some admitted using betting shops or online gambling sites, despite them being illegal for under-18s
The commission also raised concerns that close to a million young people had been exposed to gambling through "loot boxes" in video games or on smartphone apps: these can involve a player paying money for an item that is only revealed after purchasing.
The report was based on an Ipsos Mori study of 2,865 11 to 16-year-olds carried out between February and July.
The youngsters were asked nine questions including how often in the last year they thought about gambling, how often they gambled to escape from problems or when they were feeling bad, or if they had ever taken money without permission to gamble.
The results suggested 1.7% of the children were problem gamblers, equivalent to 55,000 youngsters – 42,000 more than in 2016, the newspaper said.
The study also suggested 2.2% of the 11 to 16-year-olds were at risk of developing problems, representing around 70,000 children.
The Right Reverend Alan Smith said: "We need to start taking the dangers of gambling seriously – 55,000 children classed as problem gamblers is a generational scandal."