One of the better established facts, based on research carried out in several countries, is that young people are especially vulnerable to problem gambling. It has been suggested that the problem of young people’s problem gambling may have been growing as opportunities to gamble have increased. Most people would agree how very important this is. Not only can it cause great distress to the young people involved and to their families, interfering with the development of good mental health and a smooth transition to adulthood, but there is also good evidence that the earlier in life young people start to gamble the greater the risk they run of having problems with gambling later on.

We are talking about a broad range of ages here, including those under 16 (officially classed as ‘children‘), 16 to 17 year olds (officially ‘young people‘) and those in their very late teens and early 20s (young adults).

A number of reports suggest that gambling amongst teenagers and young adults in Britain continues to be a problem and might in fact be getting worse. For a start, the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey of ‘adults’ (16 and over), which suggested that there had been a 40 to 50% increase in the prevalence of adult problem gambling in the three years since the previous survey in 2007, showed that the biggest increase in problem gambling had been in young adults aged 16 to 24, the age group with the highest prevalence. A number of other relevant reports have appeared just recently. The report of the 2012/13 Scottish Health Survey, for example, which for the first time included questions about gambling, showed that, excluding the National Lottery, more gambling, and gambling on a larger number of forms of gambling, was associated with young adulthood, especially so for men. There was also a flurry of media interest recently following a report by GamCare that an increasing number of their clients with gambling problems are young adults.

Most concerning is the report of the Young People Omnibus Survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for the Lottery Commission. The report was published last month (September 2013). Over 2000 11 to 15-year-olds from over 100 state maintained schools across England and Wales filled out questionnaires in class between February and April 2013 (some 16 year olds also took part but were excluded from the main results). No less than 15% of this sample of young teenagers had engaged in some form of gambling in the last week (20% of boys and 10% of girls), 13% on something other than National Lottery (NL) games. The percentages saying that they had gambled on particular forms of gambling in the last week is high when compared with the equivalent percentages for adults (16 years and over) according to the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. For example, 5% reported playing gambling machines (compared to 2% of adults). There was even 1% who had personally placed a bet at a betting shop; and 1% who had visited a betting shop to play gaming machines. Two per cent said that they had personally gone into a shop to buy a lottery ticket without a parent or other adult being present.

The results for online gambling are particularly worrying. We already know that engagement in online gambling is increasing in Britain and internationally, is more strongly associated with problem gambling than engagement in non-online forms of gambling, and is more heavily concentrated amongst young people than is the case for other forms of gambling. There is evidence, therefore, that online gambling may be particularly dangerous and that young people may be most at risk. According to a recent comprehensive international review of internet gambling,‘... current age verification measures are not sufficiently effective in preventing underage play... few sites have highly reliable measures to assess the age and identity of the individual actively gambling online at any one time’. A complication is that many online sites offer ‘practice’ or ‘free play’ games, typically with no age restrictions but often linked to real money sites or games, and assumed by many to be a way of training future customers. It is quite widely believed amongst people in public health and in gambling regulation that online gambling represents the greatest challenge to be faced in the next few years in the prevention of problem gambling.

Figures from the Young People Omnibus Survey regarding the playing of practice or free games online are particularly worrying. As many as 13% acknowledged doing this in the last seven days (18% boys, 8% girls), mostly involving gambling such as poker or slot or fruit machine style games using social network sites such as Facebook or using a smart phone or tablet, with smaller numbers using free online poker websites, free demo games on gambling websites, or other free practice games on the Internet. Those who had played practice or free games were much more likely to have gambled in the last week, to have played the National Lottery in the last week, to have played cards for money with friends, and to have visited a betting shop to play gambling machines.

There is also evidence from the Young People Omnibus Survey that teenage gambling is strongly associated with family poverty and area deprivation. For example, those attending schools in high deprivation areas were significantly more likely to have gambled in the last week, and to have played practice or free games; and of those who had ever bought an NL ticket, children living in families in the least affluent third of families were more likely than those in the most affluent third to have bought NL tickets on their own. The Scottish Health Survey also found a strong association between area deprivation and problem gambling amongst adults.

Another relevant report that has come my way is a report of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). In response to industry concerns over the impact of CAP’s extended restrictions on advertising on betting websites, and following a period of public consultation to which Gambling Watch UK gave written evidence, CAP has decided to make an amendment to its Code to allow ‘marketers’ to feature people under the age of 25 on betting websites where they are illustrating a bet being offered for sale. An example would be a well-known footballer illustrating a bet on his performance in a match. According to the international review of internet gambling research, referred to earlier, it has been shown that young people are highly influenced by gambling advertising. Amongst reasonable rules it suggests should be adopted regarding the advertising of gambling is that, ‘Gambling advertisements should not feature celebrities popular among youth’. Many sporting celebrities are likely to be in the 18 to 25-year-old bracket. When it comes to the betting industry trying to have things its own way, and in the process failing to show proper social responsibility, a good case in point is the trade-off they negotiated with the government to allow betting advertisements to be shown on television before the 9 pm watershed when sporting events, such as England’s recent World Cup qualifier football matches, are being shown.

One of the three stated objectives of gambling regulation in Britain is, ‘Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling’. We have to ask whether the Gambling Commission and the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which leads on gambling for the government, are fulfilling their responsibilities when it comes to protecting children and young people, and whether the gambling industry is properly exercising social responsibility with regard to children and young people.

Further reading

Gainsbury, S. 2012. Internet Gambling: Current Research Findings and Implications. New York: Springer.

Scottish Health Survey, 2012 edition, volume 1, main report. A National Statistics Publication for Scotland, The Scottish Government (www.scotland,

Wardle, H., Moody, A., Spence, S., Orford, J., Volberg, R., Jotangla, D., Griffiths, M., Hussey, D., & Dobbie, F. (2011)  British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010. London: The Gambling Commission.

Young People Omnnibus: A research study on gambling amongst 11-16 year olds on behalf of the National Lottery Commission, September 2013 (NLC website).

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Latest UK News

Parliamentary group lambasts online gambling

05 Dec 2019

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (APPG-GRH) has produced an Interim Report into the Online Gambling Sector which does not mince...

Political parties pledge gambling reform

05 Dec 2019

All four main political parties going into the December 12th general election make specific mention of gambling in their manifestos. Congratulations to...

'The Gambling Establishment' is published - a must read

18 Sep 2019

An important new book will be out in a few days time: The Gambling Establishment: Challenging the Power of the Modern Gambling Industry and Its Allies, by Jim...

The tide is turning against the gambling industry

09 Aug 2019

Great BBC TV programme available online at from 4 July 2019. Comedian Lloyd Griffith fails to double his money during a week of gambling,...

Gambling with Lives launch shows the tide is turning

17 Nov 2018

Tuesday this week, 13th November 2018, was the launch of Gambling with Lives (GwL) at the Houses of Parliament. The event was extremely well attended by...

Gambling with Lives

16 Aug 2018

Gambling with Lives (GwL) is a new group started by the parents of a young man with a gambling addiction who committed suicide. They are naturally grief...

FOBT Stake Cut to £2 Maximum

17 May 2018

The Government has at last seen sense and done what we and so many others have been asking for. Today it has announced it is bringing the maximum stake per...

What do you think about online gambling marketing: Gambling Commission wants to know

13 Feb 2018

The Gambling Commission (GC) has announced that it is working with the Competition and Markets Authority to make sure that online gambling companies bring...

Government's disappointing consultation document regarding FOBTs

01 Dec 2017

Several months later than originally expected, DCMS – which meanwhile has become DDCMS, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – has produced, not...

Gambling: a big public health problem neglected

15 Sep 2017

The Gambling Commission has just published a summary of British survey findings for 2015. The results are not new but this is the first time they have put...

TV drama shows gambling machine addiction

01 Jul 2017

The problems associated with the kinds of gambling machines now to be found in betting shops throughout Britain’s towns and cities, tending to be concentrated...

Are we seeing a backlash against liberalised commercial gambling?

05 Jun 2017

I have seen a couple of signs just recently that the tide might be turning against the establishment assumption that a strong, innovating and widely...

Gambling problems are costing Government hundreds of millions

13 Jan 2017

An important report came out at the end of 2016. This was from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an influential and progressive British...

What shall we say to the Government enquiry on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?

07 Nov 2016

Good news! Well maybe, let’s wait and see what the actual outcome is. But we do welcome the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) putting out a...

Honest admissions by prominent gambling establishment figure

11 Aug 2016

Gambling Commission’s former Chair talks at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)   Following his five years as Chair of the Gambling Commission, Philip Graf was...

The Times highlights gambling problems

23 Mar 2016

Did you see the Times of 17th February which devoted part of its front page, a whole double-page spread and an editorial to gambling and specifically the FOBT...

British gambling policy: Business As Usual for 2016

18 Jan 2016

Are there any signs that British gambling policy is changing for the better? Two recent public meetings might suggest some cautious optimism. One was a...

Jim Orford from Gambling Watch UK talks to George Galloway

16 Feb 2015

George Galloway and his wife Gayatri wanted to know how gambling has been allowed to get so out of hand. In this interview Jim gives them an overview of how...

Labour Party's sports betting levy idea criticised

18 Aug 2014

The idea behind the Labour Party’s consultation document ‘More Sport for All’, recently announced by Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, is...

World Cup betting: Should we be concerned?

13 Jun 2014

The World Cup from Brazil is on and like many others I shall be keeping an eye on the television to follow the progress of England and others. When I do I...

Betknowmore UK - a new social enterprise

25 Mar 2014

Betknowmore UK is a new non-profit, social enterprise. Our mission to to develop and deliver new, innovative, support services, to tackle issues around...

Children and young people: government and industry failing to protect

16 Oct 2013

One of the better established facts, based on research carried out in several countries, is that young people are especially vulnerable to problem gambling....

Local authorities helped to control betting shops

19 Sep 2013

The main railway station in Birmingham, where I live and work, is undergoing major renovation. Its new main entrance was opened earlier this year. Directly...

The Gambling Commission fails to apply its own precautionary principle in its advice about FOBT stakes and prizes

19 Jul 2013

The Gambling Commission has written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport giving its advice on what should be done about maximum stakes and...

Irresponsible statement by Chair of Responsible Gambling Trust

21 Mar 2013

Gambling Watch UK has been critical of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) since its launch in April 2012. For a start we think that this way of deciding how...

Gambling and Alcohol, Parallels and Shared Solutions: a New Report

21 Feb 2013

A Losing Bet? Alcohol and Gambling: Investigating Parallels and Shared Solutions, a report by Alcohol Concern and the Royal College of Psychiatrists There is...

Government fails to deal with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals on the high street but resists the Select Committee’s call to make them even more available

21 Jan 2013

On January 15th, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published the Government’s response to the July 2012 CMS Select Committee’s report into...

New Gambling Research focuses on Irresponsible Players rather than Dangerous Gambling Products

05 Dec 2012

Gambling Watch UK has already been critical of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) as a gambling industry-led body which disburses funds for gambling...

The gambling industry levy: £25 million would be a more appropriate target

31 Oct 2012

The industry levy: £25 million would be a more appropriate target for the annual contribution of the British gambling industry to research and treatment. The...

Social Work is Neglecting Problem Gambling

26 Oct 2012

Social Work is Neglecting Problem Gambling  It is now well established that problem gambling is linked to many individual and social problems including;...

'Hard' FOBT gambling: alarming and illogical recommendations from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

12 Sep 2012

Gambling Watch UK, like others, was waiting with interest to see what this report on the workings of the 2005 Gambling Act had to say about Fixed Odds Betting...

Channel 4 Dispatches puts the spotlight on FOBT machines and betting shops

07 Aug 2012

The harm being done by the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and the clustering of betting shops in poorer areas came across clearly in last night’s Channel 4...

FOBT Machine Gambling Starts to get the Publicity it Deserves

29 Jul 2012

SCHOOL kids as young as 16 are gambling illegally in high street bookies, a Sun investigation has revealed. We sent a team of 16 and 17-year-olds to a dozen...

The Expansionist Aspirations of the UK Online Gambling Industry

25 Jun 2012

I recently attended a half day seminar on The UK Online Gambling Industry. The seminar was organised by the Westminster eForum which 'aims to provide [an]...

Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs Welcomes Gambling Watch UK

31 May 2012

Gambling Watch is a welcome addition to the gambling landscape. The last few years have seen many changes as regards gambling: it is now widely advertised on...

Launch of the Responsible Gambling Trust

25 May 2012

April 2012 saw the launch of the new body – the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT), which replaces the old Responsible Gambling Fund (RGF).  The RGT takes over...

The Saturday Guardian Money Section talks to leading experts

02 May 2012

Two-thirds of patients treated at the UK's first specialist problem gambling clinic have indicated that controversial fixed odds betting terminals encouraged...

High Streets First - putting the high street before betting shops

12 Apr 2012

High Streets First is campaigning for a change in the law to give local communities a say over the number of betting shops in their area. At the moment...

Support Gambling Watch UK

Together we can make a difference

We believe there is overwhelming support for the view that there are already too many opportunities for gambling and that this is bad for individual, family and community health, but our voices need to be heard if we are to influence public policy..

Click here to register your support