Young People and Gambling in the UK: 2019 Participation Rates, Betting Activities, Attitudes, and Prevention

With a population of 67.6 million and a gross domestic product of $2.8 trillion in 2018, Great Britain has a flourishing, market-oriented economy. It makes sense for such a developed country to boast one of the largest gambling industries on a global scale. The sector was worth the hefty £14.5 billion in 2018 alone.

Gambling is widespread in the country, with Brits betting on everything from table games and lotteries to slot machines and bingo. Great Britain is also a nation of keen sports bettors, boasting over 8,400 landbased bookmaking shops on its territory.

According to a 2018 survey, nearly one half of the country’s general population (46%) admitted they have gambled over the last four weeks, with 18% of the participants choosing to do so online and 55% preferring to place their bets on mobile devices.

The industry falls under the oversight of the local watchdog, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which does everything within its means to minimize gambling-related harm, especially where the young population is concerned. In October, the regulator published the results of its latest survey that tackled the gambling trends among children and teenagers in 2019.

UKGC Reports a Decline in Youth Gambling Participation for 2019

Research company Ipsos MORI conducted a survey on behalf of the UKGC that took place from February 2019 to June 2019. The survey involved 2,943 participants aged 11 to 16 from 124 educational institutions in the United Kingdom.

The results suggest there is a decline in underage gambling participation as 11% of the surveyed minors admitted they have gambled in the week before the survey. This is a 3% drop from the participation rates reported during the previous year.

In turn, this year’s results indicated a massive drop in participation compared to 2011, when as many as 23% of the young respondents from this age group confirmed they have spent money on gambling.

Similarly to the results in 2018, young boys showed a greater inclination towards such activities, with 13% of the male participants admitting they have gambled during the above-specified period as opposed to 7% for the girls.

What Gambling Activities Have Young Brits Participated in?

The UKGC survey also explored what forms of gambling the young population participates in. It was established that the average gambling spend of minors within this age group was £17, with an average weekly allowance of £26.

The results suggest that minors mostly partake in activities that are unregulated but legal and have no age restrictions, a trend which continues from the previous year. The activities that fall in this category include placing private bets (5% of the respondents) and wagering on card games with peers (3% of the surveyed).

Certain activities like pooled sports betting and playing the National Lottery are legal for individuals who are at least 16 years old. As many as 2% of the surveyed responded they have played online instant-win games via the National Lottery website.

Coin pushers, claw machines, and low-stake fruit machines in entertainment centres have no minimum-age restrictions in the United Kingdom. The minors who admitted they have used them in the past week stood at 4%. One noticeable change concerns the participation in online gambling, which was higher this year – it has jumped from 1% in 2018 to 3% in 2019.

On a side note, it is worth mentioning that the Commission cautioned that these results should be interpreted with prudence due to changes in the methodology of the survey. The small sample size also bears consideration, the UKGC warned.

Gambling in the Context of Other Detrimental Activities

The survey also put gambling in the context of other detrimental activities to better explore the potential correlation between them. The results published in the Commission’s report suggest one such correlation may really exist.

Looking at the infographic of CasinoGuardian, you can easily see that underage individuals who have spent money on gambling over the past week are more likely to have consumed alcohol (41%), used illegal substances (21%), smoked tobacco (25%) or electronic cigarettes (27%) as opposed to the surveyed who have not gambled.

Additionally, young survey participants were asked about what other activities they are likely to engage in during their spare time. It appears the use of mobile devices and computers is a very common activity among young Brits, with 28% of the surveyed responding they prefer to chat online with their peers.

Meanwhile, 27% of the participants answered they spend their free time chatting on social media with friends while 12% played video games on their desktop computers, smartphones or tablets.

Various studies suggest that the extensive use of electronic devices like those mentioned above could be detrimental to young people. It could have a potentially harmful effect on their development, mentality, physical health, and social well-being.

Attitudes towards Gambling and Reasons for Participation

Survey participants were also asked to explain the reasons why they have spent money on gambling in the past seven days. There are variations in the answers, but the most common reply (55% of respondents) was for entertainment, followed by boredom/hope for profit (31%), for the thrill associated with such activities (19%), for the risk (13%), and because of the personal example of a parent or a guardian (10%).

On a more positive note, the results of the survey clearly indicate there is a rising awareness among young Brits about the dangers and harms associated with gambling. As many as 60% of the minors age 11 to 16 confirmed they are well aware of the risks inherent to this type of entertainment.

Meanwhile, 59% of the kids agree gambling can be dangerous. The minors who answered negatively to the initial question were also asked why they have chosen not to partake in this form of recreation.

The answer that garnered the most responses (56%) was that underage gambling is illegal. Other common replies to this question were that the surveyed were disinterested in such activities, that they disagree with them altogether, and that it could lead to problems in their formative years. Some kids refrain from gambling because they fear this is not something their parents would want them to engage in.

Young Brits’ Exposure to Gambling-Related Ads and Sponsorships

The hot issue of gambling-related advertisements and sponsorships was also broached in the survey. Many of the participants confirmed they have been exposed to such ads on different media, with most minors (58%) reporting they have seen them on television.

The other common responses to this question include seeing gambling ads on the Internet (49%), on social media (43%), in the newspapers (30%), and on billboards (37%). As for the sponsorships, 42% of the surveyed responded they have seen such content on television or have heard about it on the radio.

To end on a positive note, the UKGC has already taken various preventive measures that aim to restrict the access of minors to gambling. May 2019 saw the enforcement of a new set of rules that require online gambling operators to perform stricter age and identity verification checks before newly registered customers can process their first deposits.

Under this rule, access to both practice and real-money gambling is completely restricted before the verification procedure is completed within the designated 72-hour timeframe. As for the advertisements, these are prohibited during live televised sporting events before the 9 pm watershed. The restrictions begin five minutes before the start of the games and end five minutes after.

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