UKGC: 0.7 per cent of young people identified as problem gamblers

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The UK Gambling Commission has stated that the number of young people aged between 11-17 that have gambled over the past year has dropped by five per cent year-over-year, but 0.7 per cent of those were identified as problem gamblers.

The statistics are part of the UKGC’s Young People and Gambling 2023 report – an annual study that helps “understand children’s and young people’s exposure to, and involvement in, all types of gambling”.

Published by Ipsos, the study surveyed a sample size of 3,453 11-17-year-olds across Britain who attend academies – maintained and independent schools that have proliferated in the last 10 years. Pupils were asked to fill in an online self-completion survey in class based on their gambling activities.

From that sample size, the UKGC found that 26 per cent of participants had gambled their own money on some form of gambling in the past 12 months, which is down five per cent in comparison to the 31 per cent figure reported in 2022.

The commission noted that, since licensed gambling operators must have strong protections in place to stop young people from gambling, the most common types of gambling among young people are legal or don’t have an age restriction.

From the above participation figure, 19 per cent played arcade gaming machines such as penny pusher or claw grab machines, 11 per cent placed a bet for money between friends or family, and five per cent played cards with friends or family for money.

When arcade machines were excluded, as young people can play these machines legally, the figure of participants that had gambled their own money on some form of gambling in the past year comes in at four per cent, a one per cent decline on the previous year (2022: five per cent).

The 2023 Young People and Gambling Report also screened participants using the youth-adapted Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition – Multiple Response Juvenile to assess whether respondents who gamble are defined as experiencing problems with their gambling.

The screening found that 0.7 per cent of respondents were identified as problem gamblers, down 0.2 per cent in comparison to the 0.9 per cent figure reported in 2022. 

1.5 per cent of respondents were identified as at-risk gamblers, a 0.9 per cent decline when compared to the 2.4 per cent figure the previous year. 23 per cent were identified as non-problem gamblers.

Offline gambling adverts had been seen by 55 per cent of respondents, down from 66 per cent in 2022, while online gambling adverts had been seen by 53 per cent of respondents, a drop compared to 63 per cent the previous year.

The most common media in which young people saw gambling advertisements were television at 47 per cent and apps at 45 per cent.

15 per cent of participants also followed a gambling company on social media, most commonly on YouTube (10 per cent), followed by TikTok (nine per cent) and Instagram (seven per cent). 68 per cent of respondents don’t follow a gambling company on social media.

As for why young people gambled, data from the report stated that 80 per cent of respondents who have used their own money to gamble in the past year did so because “they regard it as a fun thing to do”. 17 per cent agreed that gambling makes them happy, 29 per cent disagreed that it made them happy, and 28 per cent were unsure either way.

Of all respondents, 28 per cent said they had seen family members they live with gamble. From this group, 10 per cent said gambling had been the cause of arguments or tension at home, while 12 per cent said a family member’s gambling had helped to pay for things at home (eg. holidays, trips or clubs).

The UKGC added that protecting young people from harm is “a priority for the commission and it is working hard to implement relevant proposals by government in its Gambling Act Review White Paper High stakes: gambling reform for the digital age”.

These proposals include examining how the on-premises age verification process can be improved, such as requiring staff to check the age of customers who appear to be under 25, instead of under 21.

The UKGC’s Young People and Gambling 2023 report is also released during Safer Gambling Week in the UK, where many gambling industry stakeholders are spotlighting the resources available to players to help them stay in control of their gambling as well as provide them with advice.

BGC: zero tolerance approach to betting by children

Commenting on the UKGC’s Young People and Gambling 2023 report, a spokesperson for the Betting and Gaming Council said its 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.

“These latest figures from the Gambling Commission, which incorporates data from 17-year-olds for the first time, and therefore comparisons with previous surveys should be treated with caution, show the number of children aged 11-17 gambling in the last seven has dropped two per cent since last year, to five per cent.   

“Our members enforce strict age verification on all their products to prevent underage gaming, while the BGC funds the £10m Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, delivered by leading charities YGAM and GamCare, which has reached more than two million 11 to 19-year-olds, and those working with them, in the UK.

“Meanwhile figures released by independent analysts Serve Legal revealed betting shops’ record on age verification checks are better than those of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol forecourts.

“In 2019, BGC members introduced the whistle-to-whistle ban on TV betting commercials during live sport before the 9pm watershed, which led to the number of such ads being seen by children at that time falling by 97 per cent. Our members also introduced new age-gating rules for advertising on social media platforms, restricting ads to those aged 25 and over for most sites.

“This survey shows young people’s exposure to gambling adverts and promotions has also declined since last year, of 11-17-year-olds 55 per cent had seen gambling adverts offline, compared to 66 per cent in 2022, and 53 per cent had seen adverts online, compared to 63 per cent in 2022.

“The regulated betting and gaming 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.”