SBC News UKGC: Gambling protections work, but children require better influences to prevent harm

UKGC: Gambling protections work, but children require better influences to prevent harm

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published its long-awaited ‘Young People and Gambling Report’, following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on its survey research. 

Since 2011, the Commission has surveyed 11 to 16-year-olds’ involvement in gambling as a key assessment of market safeguards to protect children from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Last month, the UKGC’s research team informed stakeholders of changes to the design of the survey to provide a deeper focus on the specific influences of youths who are at-risk or suffer from problem gambling.

The study collected data from a sample of 2,559 11 to 16-year-olds attending academies and maintained schools in England, Scotland, and Wales

The report’s headline statistic revealed that “31% of 11 to 16-year-olds had spent their own money on any gambling activity in the past 12 months”.

The above statistic stands below the 37% of 11 to 16-year-olds who were reported to have gambled in 2020, the year that the survey was last published.

Observing that three-in-ten 11 to 16-year-olds spent their own money on gambling in the past 12 months, the survey noted arcade games such as penny pushers and claw grabs as the most popular activity, registering 22% engagement with the survey’s active gambling participants.

Arcade games were followed by ‘a bet with friends or family’ registering 15% involvement, as overall “23% of young people were spending their own money on regulated forms of gambling”.

Headline stats revealed a significant drop in 2022 engagement with National Lottery products, which registered at 1% for scratch cards and instant win games versus the 7% recorded in 2020.

Providing insights on variations of gambling activities, the report detailed that the older age group of 14 to 16 was more likely to have spent money on unregulated forms of gambling, mainly wagering with friends or family members (card games and bets). 

Applying the DSM-IV-MR-J Problem Gambling Screen, designed to report on youth-specific gambling mental disorders, the survey identified 0.9% of 11 to 16-year-olds as problem gamblers.

Across all participants, the survey classified 2.4% as at-risk gamblers and 27.3% as non-problem gamblers.

A breakdown of the gambling harms segment detailed that boys were more likely to be classified as at-risk gamblers (3.2%) than girls (1.8%). However, the 2022 report found no gender variations in the category defined as problem gamblers.

Insights related to ethnicity detailed that black or minority ethnic group youths were more likely to be screened as at-risk gamblers (3.2%) and problem gamblers (1.3%) when compared to the white children’s index of 2% and 0.7%.

However, the survey underscored no significant statistical differences by ethnicity in regard to at-risk or problem gamblers.

Stakeholders were advised that “It is important to bear in mind that this is a youth-adapted problem gambler screen”, which reports on adolescent behaviours such as spending pocket money on arguing with friends over gambling.

Research undertaken highlighted the context of young people’s experiences with gambling, as 60% of participants reported a direct or indirect experience with gambling during the past 12 months.

The survey continues to highlight the trend that children who had seen family members gamble were more likely to spend their own money on gambling, than those who had not seen a family member gamble (36% versus 16%). 

A summary on attitudes towards gambling highlighted that 64% of participants agreed “that gambling was dangerous”. Meanwhile, 70% of children felt well informed about the risks of gambling, with 50% stating that an adult  had personally spoken to them about gambling risks.

On advertising, two-thirds of participants (66%) reported that their exposure to adverts or promotion of gambling happens offline, typically when watching television (57%).

78% of children that had gambled in the past 12 months claimed they had done so “because they regard it as a fun thing to do”, meanwhile 36% believed that they “had a good chance of winning something”

Since its last report, the UKGC highlighted a tougher enforcement of age restrictions applied to all forms of gambling, including increasing online age and ID verification, strengthening customer interaction requirements, and banning gambling on credit cards

“In this year’s survey, whilst the headline data around regulated age-restricted products is encouraging, there is clearly a group who still struggle with gambling,” the regulator noted.

It concluded: “We are committed to understanding and acting on these findings in more detail to help us, and a variety of other stakeholders, appreciate if and how young people are playing on regulated and non-regulated products, the challenges, and the wider implications.


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