The Gambling Commission published its 2018 report on Young People and Gambling today, finding that underage gambling has risen by 2% in the last year.
It found that 14% of 11-16 year olds had spent their own money on gambling in the past week. They spent an average of £16 on slots, bingo, betting shops and online – all of which are illegal for under-18s.
In comparison, 13% had drunk alcohol in the past week, 4% had smoked cigarettes and 2% had taken illegal drugs.
Over the last year, 39% of 11-16 year olds had gambled in some form. This included placing private bets and playing card games for money. Online gambling was fairly uncommon, but a third of respondents had purchased loot boxes or spent money inside games.
The Commission stresses that the number of children gambling is still relatively low historically. In 2011, nearly a quarter of 11-15 year olds surveyed had gambled in the last week.
However, the report suggests that addiction may be more of an issue. Researchers used criteria from the DSM-5, a diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, to identify vulnerable individuals. 1.7% were classified as ‘problem’ gamblers and a further 2.2% as ‘at risk’.
Executive director Tim Miller said that while the Commission is cracking down on age verification and licensing, regulation alone cannot prevent adolescent problem gambling.
“Our latest research shows that the most common forms of gambling by children do not happen in gambling premises.
“Some of these are legal, such as bets between friends; some of these are unlawful, such as gambling on machines in pubs. But all of them present risks to young people as there is no form of gambling that is risk-free. It is therefore vital that all those with a part to play in protecting children and young people – parents, businesses and regulators – work together.”
David Sams of casino comparison website Casino Market said: “It remains very important that casinos both online and offline carry out rigorous checks and balances to ensure only those of a suitable age and disposition can gamble and play responsibly.”