Children are being bombarded with gambling adverts in an ‘uncontrolled social experiment on today’s youth’, a Government report has warned.
In a damning review, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board said nine out of ten young people had been exposed to gambling adverts and marketing on TV and social media.
As a result, gambling risks becoming ‘normalised’ in the minds of many children – with the risk that more are sucked into betting at a young age. Worryingly, gambling is now more popular than ten-pin bowling and skateboarding among children, with more than one in ten under-16s gambling in the previous week.
The panel of experts warned ministers and schools should treat the dangers to children from gambling in the same way as they do cyberbullying, pornography and extremism.
Their report makes more than 30 recommendations to limit children’s exposure to gambling adverts and their ability to gamble online. It says:
- Ministers should review the rules allowing 16-year-olds to buy National Lottery scratchcards;
- Lottery scratchcards with themes such as ‘Santa’s Millions’ appear designed to appeal to children;
- Parents are unaware how their children are being exposed to gambling on their phones;
- Children can register with online gambling sites, deposit cash and bet for three days while age verification checks are carried out;
- One in five boys has gambled using tradeable rewards in online video games;
- Ministers should look at the rules allowing children to gamble on fruit machines – but the report stops short of recommending a ban.
The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board advises the Gambling Commission, the government body which regulates the industry. Its report will heap pressure on ministers to look again at the laws on gambling and young people.
It argues that the ‘legal availability of some forms of commercial gambling to under-18s in Great Britain is unusual by international standards’, adding: ‘It has been described as a “historical accident”. We would not recommend it if we were starting from scratch.’
The report comes amid growing concern about the dangers to children of getting hooked on gambling at an early age.
– Jack Doyle
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