Far fewer children and young people gambled in England, Scotland, and Wales over the past 12 months than last year, according to the Gambling Commission’s latest report.
Around 26 percent of 11 to 17 year-olds spent their own money on some form of gambling in the last 12 months, compared with 31 percent in 2022.
The figures come from the Young People and Gambling 2023 report, which was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Gambling Commission, and published on November 16.
The report also revealed a decline in the percentage of young people spending their own money on regulated gambling products. After removing “arcade gaming machines”, which are legal for children to play, from the definition of regulated forms of gambling, the results came to 4 percent in 2023 compared with 5 percent in 2022.
Survey respondents included a sample of 3,453 11 to 17 year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales. Previous years only surveyed children aged 11-16 years. Pupils from independent schools were also invited to take part in the research for the first time.
“This is an important development in enhancing our understanding of gambling behaviour among young people and contributes to the ongoing improvement of our evidence base. Nevertheless, in light of this change, any comparisons with data from previous surveys should be interpreted with caution,” the report states.
Advertising exposure also declined, with 55 percent of respondents seeing gambling adverts offline, compared with 66 percent in 2022, and 53 percent seeing adverts online, compared with 63 percent in 2022.
Problem gambling rates went down to 0.7 percent from 0.9 percent in 2022 and the amount of “at-risk” gamblers also declined from 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent.
“Protecting children and young people from harm remains a priority for the commission and it is working hard to implement relevant proposals by government in its Gambling Act Review White Paper,” according to the report.
This includes looking at strengthening age verification in retail venues by removing the current exemption from carrying out age verification test purchasing for the smallest gambling premises.
Additionally, the regulator is considering changing the good practice code to say that licensees should have procedures that require their staff to check the age of any customer who appears to be under 25, rather than under 21 years of age.
A spokesperson for trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), said: “BGC members take a zero-tolerance approach to betting by children.
“The most popular forms of betting by children are legal arcade games like penny pusher and claw grab machines, bets between friends or family, and playing cards for money — not with BGC members.”
The BGC added that the regulated industry is “determined to promote safer gaming, unlike the unsafe and growing online black market, which has none of the safeguards strictly employed by BGC members”.
Dan Waugh of Regulus Partners warned that despite the relatively positive findings, “some people will wish to interpret the results to suit their agendas” and that “understanding what children are gambling on is important”.
Looking at data from past Young People and Gambling reports from 2015-2019, Waugh said the most common products used were all either legal or partially legal for children to participate in, such as playing cards with friends and family and National Lottery scratchcards, which were legal for 16 year-olds to buy during those years.
Additionally, Waugh pointed out that the problem gambling classification in the survey is “much softer” than the one used in the Health Survey for England, where problem gambling rates for teenagers are consistently very low.
“If you play cards at school using your pocket money, argue with your mates, hope to win money from doing so and fail to tell your parents about it, it is conceptually possible to be classified as a 'problem gambler' using the criteria in the Young People and Gambling Survey,” he said.
“Some children may experience harm from gambling as well as from another's gambling — but we should be very clear about what the survey results show and what they do not. Twisting survey findings to meet an agenda is not going to result in sound policy.”