The UK Gambling Commission released a report this week on the gambling habits of underage children in the United Kingdom. The Gambling Commission announced that underage kids’ most common forms of gambling include (1) bets among friends, (2) lottery scratch cards bought by parents, and (3) illegally playing fruit machines in pubs.

The research, called the annual “Young People and Gambling” report, shows that “stronger partnerships” are required to protect children from underage gambling. The UK Gambling Commission called for more coordination between regulators, gaming companies, and businesses where gambling takes place.

The report’s biggest finding is perhaps its least surprising: parents play a key role in whether their children developing gambling habits.

One imagines underage children learning to gamble from peers, where peer pressure, the chance at easy money, and the allure of breaking the rules combine to lead children astray. That concern, while prominent, does not appear to be as common as one might think.

Parental Oversight Needed More Than Ever

Tim Miller, the UK Gambling Commission’s executive director, said after release of the report, “Protecting children from the harms that can come from gambling remains one of our highest priorities. In the areas we have regulatory control, we continue to strengthen the protections in place to prevent underage gambling, such as our recent proposals for enhanced age verifications checks for online gambling.”

The fact that two of the top three gateways into a life of gambling comes from parents underscores the need for education of adults — not just children — about the dangers of rampant gambling. A parent buying lotto scratch card games or any adult allowing a child to play fruit machines sends a strong signal to the youth that gambling is not a danger. If adults approve, then everything must be alright.

How Parents Can Stop Underage Gambling

One can imagine many circumstances for children being allowed to play at fruit machines, but several include parental oversight. Underage gamblers might use a fake ID to get into a pub, or a non-family member who works at the pub might allow them to skirt policies. In many cases, though, pub owners might allow a parent to bring an underage child into the establishment.

Once inside, parents and club workers are distracted by the hustle and bustle of pub life and the child can play the fruit machine like it’s a video game.

In most cases, an underage gambler needs a stake from a parent to engage in gambling. The report showed that only 14% of children use their own cash to make wagers.

Gambling among 11-16 Year Olds Down

The Young People and Gambling report shows cause for optimism, though. Gambling participation by 11 to 16 year olds is lower this year than it has been in previous years. Underage gambling appears to be less common, which is a sign that government and industry-led awareness campaigns seem to be working.

Conversely, the report shows that more children are at-risk of harm from gambling than ever before. Part of that is due to population growth, but the Gambling Commission. The report shows that most children who gamble engage in activities well beyond the Gaming Commission’s oversight.

Such a situation underscores the need for a more collaborative effort between public office holders, private businesses, and private citizens. The report noted that only 19% of children said they had been warned by parents about the dangers of gambling — despite increasing rates of problem gambling overall.

Tim Miller on the Risks Young People Face

Tim Miller added in his summation of the report, “Regulation alone cannot address all of the risks that young people may face from 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 — [to] work together.”

The Gambling Commission called on pub owners to take serious steps to curtail underage gambling after “serious failures to stop children playing on 18+ gaming machines. With the Commission’s propensity these past two years to increase fines on gaming companies, such a warning might be followed with examples being set. A handful of pub owners who flagrantly violate the law might be fined by the UGC.

Commission Attempts to Curb Underage Gambling

Previously, the Commission began working with private industry on technology that could improve the age-verification process. At the same time, at a September 17 conference, regulators discussed with gaming developers ways to design games that do not blur the lines between video games, social gaming, and traditional gambling.

About the Author
April Bergman avatar
April Bergman

April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

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April Bergman was a longtime news blogger for BOC. She wrote gaming news posts from January 2013 until September 2018. April also wrote slot reviews, strategy articles, and online casino reviews for the site.

April Bergman began in the online gaming industry in August 2010. From 2010 to 2013, she managed evergreen content for several top online casino. Her duties included developing and maintaining multiple websites in the gaming space. When not writing about online gambling, April loves horse racing, travel, photography, and gardening. She's began in the business as a devoted poker players and spent several years as a card game editor on the now-defunct DMOZ. These days, she lives with her husband and two children in the Toronto metropolitan area.

READ MORE
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