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A scheme designed to raise awareness of gambling, and potential risks posed, has been piloted in selected UK secondary schools.

With 25,000 UK children classed as problem gamblers, the initiative, brought forward by cross-party think-tank Demos and GambleAware, aims to provide lessons to prevent gambling related harm amongst school age children.

The pilot, which intends to teach about the risks of problem gambling, where to receive help and support and tactics employed to encourage gambling amongst others, was undertaken by a sample of 650 pupils.

Of those students, 41 percent stated they had participated in gambling within last year, mostly doing so through using money to place bets (21%), followed by playing fruit machines (17%) and playing cards for money (14%).

Simone Vibert, Social Policy Researcher at Demos, said: “Given that young people are routinely taught about the risks of drugs, alcohol and underage sex, the fact that so few are taught about gambling is an anomaly.

“Problem gambling can wreak havoc on people’s lives, not to mention their friends, families and the wider economy. Prevention is clearly preferable to treatment later down the line.  

These lessons encourage pupils to weigh risk, manage impulses and advise others – all things that can help prevent problem gambling and other risky behaviour too.

“We therefore call upon the Government and schools to use these resources to help develop the skills and resilience of pupils, confident in the knowledge that they have been proven to make a difference.”

Over the course of its twelve month test period several substantial rises were reported amongst the students, including describing ways to help someone experiencing gambling problems (20%), knowing where to go to talk (18%), being able to describe delayed gratification (11%) and understanding gambling encouragement techniques (10%).

A seven percent decline in pupils participating in playing cards for money was also reported during the observation period.

Dr Jane Rigbye, Director of Education at GambleAware, added: “There are legitimate concerns about the impact of gambling-related advertising and the normalisation of gambling for children.

“It is in this context, that GambleAware is pleased to have funded this project to explore what may be effective in helping children to understand the nature of gambling and the associated risks, and to become resilient to the harms that can arise.

“We hope the success of this project will support that case for gambling and the risks it poses to be included in the PSHE curriculum in schools in the future.”

Over 100 schools have since expressed an interest in taking part, with the results also having been submitted to the government as part of a consultation into PSHE lesson content.

Demos and GambleAware have highlighted the need to include gambling-related harm when teaching children about risky behaviours.