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Number of child gamblers quadruples in just two years

22 November 2018

The scale of problem gambling among young people has been exposed after a new report by the Gambling Commission showed the number of child gamblers had quadrupled in just two years.

It prompted calls for an urgent review of current gambling legislation to make sure laws are fit for purpose.

The Gambling Commission's figures suggest 450,000 children aged 11-16 bet on a regular basis, while 55,000 children were classed as problem gamblers.

By contrast, last year's Gambling Commission report into young people and gambling suggested 370,000 11-16 year olds gambled on a weekly basis.

The report showed that bets with friends, scratchcards and slot machines were the most popular forms of betting for young people.

Other findings include:

  • Over the past 12 months, 39% of 11-16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling and 14% in the previous week

  • Young people who have gambled in the past week spent an average of £16

  • 6% had gambled online using a parent or guardian's account

  • 60% of young people think their parents would prefer them not to gamble at all, however only 19% said their parents set strict rules about gambling

'Generational scandal'

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith who leads on the issue of gambling in the House of Lords for the Church of England said the findings were a "generational scandal".

CARE is campaigning to ensure stronger laws to protect problem gamblers and the charity's spokesperson, James Mildred also responded to the latest figures.

He said: “These latest statistics make for grim reading.

“They are a stark reminder that there is a huge amount of work to do in making sure our gambling laws are fit for purpose.

“The breakthrough recently on FOBTs is only part of the jigsaw and we now need to look at a range of options to help child problem gamblers.

“Above all we need to be asking the right questions, for example why has there been this sharp increase? What is fuelling it?

“In this connection, one area that needs immediate attention is gambling advertising. It is surely time to blow the whistle on sport betting ads being shown around live sporting events.

“The whole relationship between football leagues and gambling firms also needs a wider public debate.

“Gambling advertising suggests gambling is fun, easy and harmless. The reality is the opposite is often true. Problem gambling in childhood can lead to further issues with gambling addiction later in life.

“If you look at the figures, for many young people gambling is clearly a social activity and something they enjoy doing with their friends.

“So let’s look at raising more awareness in schools about the risks associated with gambling addiction.”

Find out more

Read: more about CARE's work on gambling

The Gambling Commission's Report can be read here



While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

Find out more about the cause

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