25,000 under 18 year olds are problem gamblers in the UK according to The Children and Young People’s Gambling: Research Review (December 2017, Gambling Commission), with approx. 1 in 9, 11-15 year olds illegally gambling every week.
These striking statistics form a starting point in dispelling the myth that gambling isn’t a problem for today’s youths.
In my work as the young people’s gambling project officer for Bristol’s Addiction Recovery Agency (ARA) in partnership with GamCare’s young people’s gambling project BigDeal, I have had the privilege to speak first hand to young people about their experiences and views around gambling.
Young people from the age of 11 are very aware of gambling and in discussions they talk about how much they notice the heavy influx of gambling related advertisements in the media but many didn’t feel that there were dangers to gambling. The fact that an average of 370,000 of the UK’s young people up to the age of 15 go on to gamble each week before they are even old enough to legally buy a scratch card or play Lotto, is an eye opener for many parents and professionals working with young people.
Professionals I have worked with admit that they centralise their focus on young people’s potential risky behaviours around the more obvious addictions such as drugs and alcohol, not realising that problem gambling can be just as detrimental to a young person’s life and has the highest suicide rate out of all addictions. This highlights how problem gambling in young people can be a real mental health concern and should be considered by professionals who have safeguarding responsibilities for young people.
The question often arises regarding how underage people manage to gamble and research has suggested that this can occur due to a number of reasons starting with parents introducing them to the activities as something fun to do or non-regulated fruit machines, private poker games or bets with friends.
These facts form just the beginning of where gambling can start for young people today but the risk increases considerably when the young person reaches an age where they can legally gamble. Significant increases in gambling activities in young people up to the age of 25 have included online gambling and a rise in the use of high stake Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in bookmaker shops generating devastating losses for some young gamblers, in very short spaces of time.
These facts drive our passion here at ARA for educating both young people and professionals that work with young people on the facts around gambling with FREE workshops that are delivered in organisations across the South West of England and South Wales. These workshops help to start conversations with young people about gambling in fun and interactive sessions and help raise awareness around how to make safe and sensible choices around any gambling activities they may get involved in.
Professional workshops include training on how to screen for problem gambling and how to conduct a brief intervention with a young person if required. All workshops give clear information on how to seek help if problem gambling is identified to give young people the right support.
If you’d like to learn more or book a workshop don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on Rebeccavials@addictionrecovery.org.uk .
Together we can make a difference by making sure our young people stay safe around gambling.
By Rebecca Vials- Young Peoples Project Officer, ARA