Gambling Commission report finds 25,000 children in the UK are problem gamblers

A new report published by the UK Gambling Commission claims that around 25,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 are problem gamblers in the UK.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller from the UKGC believes cross-industry co-operation is required to help protect children from gambling. © Twitter.

The findings come from the Commission’s Young people and gambling report and show that children are largely introduced to gambling via computer games or social media, with many gambling games featured within other computer games or on free-to-play internet casino sites.

Headline findings from the report include:

12% of 11-16 year olds have used free gambling social games online

11% of 11-16 year olds have used in-game items to bet or gamble when playing a computer game

09.% of 11-16 year olds are problem gamblers, while 1.3% are at risk

10% of 11-16 year olds follow gambling companies on social media

15% of boys and 7% of girls had gambled in the last week

The report also found that 80% of the children surveyed had seen a gambling advert on TV, while £10 was the average spend of those who had gambled in the past week.

Fruit machines were the most common form of gambling, followed by private bets with friends and National Lottery scratchcards.

Commenting on the report, Tim Miller, Gambling Commission Executive Director, said:

We require gambling operators to have strong protections in place to prevent children from accessing their products and are actively reviewing how some, like age verification, can continue to be strengthened. However, it is clear that many children’s experiences of gambling-style activities are coming from the playground, the games console or social media rather than the bookmaker, the casino or the gambling website. That’s why it is essential that we work across industries and with parents so that together we can protect children and encourage those that choose to gamble in adulthood to do so safely.Tim Miller, Gambling Commission Executive Director

Skin betting remains in the spotlight

For the first time in its annual report, the Commission looked at so-called skin betting, which involves the trade of virtual items, or skins, in computer games. Players can either win the skins or use real money to purchase them. Since it is luck which skin a user is rewarded with and a huge difference exists between the value or rarity of different skins, they can also be sold for large amounts of money.

The report found that 45% of children were aware of skin betting and 11% had placed bets using in-game items.

Sarah Harrison, CEO of the Gambling Commission, believes that skin betting is a huge issue:

Because of these unlicensed skin betting sites, the safeguards that exist are not being applied and we’re seeing examples of really young people, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are getting involved in skin betting, not realising that it’s gambling. At one level they are running up bills perhaps on their parents’ Paypal account or credit card, but the wider effect is the introduction and normalisation of this kind of gambling among children and young people.Sarah Harrison, CEO of the Gambling Commission

The issue has existed in video games for some time now, but rose to prominence recently due to a scandal surrounding Loot Boxes in the recently released Star Wars Battlefront game by Electronic Arts.

The UK Gambling Commission ruled that the loot boxes do not constitute gambling, but many other regulators in different countries are still considering the classification.

However, this report shows how third party websites exist that allow children to gamble the virtual skins on casino type games, with the chance to win real money. Whether this will force the Gambling Commission to reevaluate its stance on loot boxes remains to be seen.

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