Although traditional gambling venues still exist, the "digital revolution" has significantly changed the way we gamble and think about gambling. Gambling now presents itself in many more forms, not always considered as gambling and often hidden from the public eye.
We no longer need to head to the local bookmakers to put our weekend bet on – we can gamble from the comfort of our own home. This has contributed to the amount gambling firms win from customers rising from £8.36 billion in 2008 to more than £14 billion in 2019.
Despite this shift, we seldom see children and young people as a demographic likely to participate in gambling. In fact, it has been reported that only 23 per cent of school children say their parents set rules on gambling, despite more than 1 in 10 children following gambling companies on social media.
A recent report found that children may gamble more than we think. An estimated 48 per cent of those aged 11-16 had spent money on gambling at some point in their lives. The study, carried out by the Gambling Commission, also found that 11 per cent had gambled in the past week, more than had smoked a cigarette or taken illegal drugs.
Gambling: risks and remedies
The number of children in the UK who are problem gamblers is on the rise, from 25,000 in 2017 to 55,000 in 2018. Problem gambling is not defined by the amount of time or money spent; rather, it is gambling that causes harm to the gambler and those around them. For young people, such harms might include anything from low mood and poor attainment to mental health problems, criminal activity or the breakdown of relationships.
More needs to be done to educate young people about the risks of gambling and protect those most vulnerable from gambling-related harm.
Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller has stressed that all forms of gambling “present risks to young people”. The Gambling Commission emphasises the importance of reaching young people before they have gambled. To achieve this, it is crucial to promote a multi-agency approach and strengthen the role that the formal and informal education sectors can play.
Anyone working directly with young people can build awareness and support healthier lifestyles by addressing gambling-related harms as part of existing programmes that promote children’s health and wellbeing. Similarly, education and prevention initiatives that help develop decision-making and critical-thinking skills while addressing risk-taking behaviours can play a key role in increasing the ability to make informed choices about gambling.
If a there is concern about the gambling behaviour of a pupil, teachers can use the Gambling Brief Intervention Guide. It includes practical tips on: identifying a problem; how to talk to someone about their gambling; offering immediate brief support; and when to signpost to specialist services.
Creative approaches to reducing gambling harms have also shown promising results. A peer-theatre production raising awareness and exploring the risks associated with youth gambling,Trust Me, toured high schools across Scotland in 2019. The tour reached more than 7,600 pupils, and four-fifths of children said the play improved their awareness of youth gambling. Some 90 per cent of teachers said they would recommend more plays as an educational tool in the future.
It’s never been more important that we take an active role in educating young people about the risks associated with gambling. If you work with young people and want to learn more, visit the Gambling Education Hub.