Today the Gambling Commission published its Young People and Gambling Report which reveals that over the last year there has been an increase in the percentage of 11-16 year olds who gamble and an increase in the percentage who are classified as problem gamblers. Here, Commission Executive Director Tim Miller sets out how protecting children from harm will remain a top priority for the Commission and how it will strengthen protections for children whilst working with others to make gambling safer.
The report we have published today shows that 14% of 11-16 year olds in Britain gambled in the previous week and 1.7% are problem gamblers. There’s no doubt that these are figures that should make people sit up and pay attention and recognise that there is no form of gambling that is risk free. And we know that young people’s early experiences of gambling can shape their future relationships with it. But whilst discussions about children and gambling might conjure up images of groups of kids being allowed to sneak into the local bookies or sitting alone on their iPads gambling on an online casino, our latest research paints a more complex, and perhaps challenging, picture.
The most common activities that children gamble on are not those that occur exclusively within licensed gambling premises. Casinos, online gambling, bingo and bookies do not feature in the most prevalent forms of gambling in this age group. 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. We also found them gambling in places where parents were or might be expected to be present – scratchcards from the supermarket or playing fruit machines in pubs.
Just in the last week we found that nearly 90% of the pubs across England that were tested failed to prevent children from gambling on their fruit machines. These are businesses that are not gambling companies but nevertheless have a duty to protect young people from being harmed. Of course, none of this will divert us from our core duty to protect children from those forms of gambling offered by the companies we regulate. We continue to take action when children are not properly protected by gambling companies and keep raising the standards of protections in place.
Earlier this year we set out our proposals to strengthen age verification for online gambling sites, including putting free to play games behind an age check wall. And in October we introduced new rules which mean we can directly take action, including imposing fines, against gambling businesses that break advertising rules (such as advertising that appeals to children or glamourises gambling). But our actions alone won’t stop children being exposed to the risks gambling can pose. Protecting children from harm requires a joined-up approach: a strong, effective regulator; parents and teachers who understand and talk about the risks that can come from gambling; businesses, both in the gambling industry and outside, that act responsibly. It is by working hand in hand that we can help to keep our kids safe.