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Number of children gambling falls slightly on last year, survey suggests

The percentage of 11 to 16 year olds classified as ‘at risk’ gamblers has risen from 2.2% to 2.7%, the regulator said.

A National Lottery kiosk in a newsagent in north London.
A National Lottery kiosk in a newsagent in north London.

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Correspondent

Some 11% of 11 to 16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling in the past seven days, compared with 14% in 2018, survey findings have suggested.

The Gambling Commission said the percentage of young people classified as “problem” gamblers was unchanged from last year at 1.7%, although the percentage classified as “at risk” has risen from 2.2% to 2.7%.

It said the latest results “do not represent a significant increase over time”.

The survey found the most common type of gambling activity that young people are taking part in is private bets for money, played by 5% of those surveyed, and playing cards with friends for money (3%).

The research also shows that 3% report buying National Lottery scratchcards in a shop and a further 4% say they have played fruit or slot machines in the past seven days.

Those who said they had gambled in the past seven days spent an average of £17, according to the survey.

Over the past 12 months, 36% of 11 to 16 year olds say they have spent their money on gambling, down from 39% in 2018.

Where operators have failed to protect children and young people, we have and will continue to take firm action. Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller

More than two-thirds (69%) said they had seen or heard gambling ads or sponsorship while 83% of these children said it had not prompted them to gamble.

More than half (52%) of young people said they had heard of in-game items, of which 44% who said they had paid money to open loot boxes to get other in game items within the game they were playing.

Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller said: “Most of the gambling covered by this 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.

“Where operators have failed to protect children and young people, we have and will continue to take firm action.

“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.”

Earlier this month, the regulator’s chief executive Neil McArthur said he expected operators to use data to avoid targeting advertising at young and vulnerable people.

Last year the Gambling Commission made a call to action to the pub industry after test purchasing found that 88% of pubs in England failed to prevent children accessing 18+ gaming machines.

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said: “There continue to be 55,000 children classed as ‘problem gamblers’ and a further 87,000 at risk. While this remains a national scandal, the Commission uses detached phrases such as ‘The 2019 results do not represent a significant increase over time.’

“Policy calls for a public health approach to gambling-related harm, so I would have liked to have seen concrete evidence of effective solutions over the past year to reduce the exposure of children to gambling.

“A civilised, modern society must not accept this crisis as normal or become content with it.”

PA

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