Problem gamblers report high rates of gambling legally as children

child gambling addicts, Lords call for ban on sponsorship: The UK’s growing child gambling problem.

Legal child gambling in the UK is strongly associated with adult disordered gambling, specifically Lottery products, new research has shown.

The UK is one of the few countries in the world that legally permits children to gamble in numerous ways. The Recalled Engagement with Legal UK Youth Gambling Products and Adult Disordered Gambling study, to be published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, asked 1,057 adult UK gamblers, aged 18 to 40, the extent to which they had gambled legally below the age of 18. Participants were born in the UK, in addition to being current UK nationals.

Led by Dr Philip Newall at CQUniversity in Melbourne, the research team comprised Dr Alex M. T. Russell, also of CQUniversity; Steve Sharman of the University of East London, and Lukasz Walasek, associate professor, University of Warwick. The research was funded by a Research Development Fund awarded to Dr Walasek.

Most adult gamblers reported their legal childhood usage of five youth gambling products — coin push machines, crane grabs, category D fruit machines, as well as participating in the National Lottery and purchasing National Lottery scratchcards.

With the adult disordered gambling symptoms measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index, rates of recollected legal engagement varied from 50.9% for Category D fruit machines to 96.6% for ‘coin push’ machines, and 93.8% for ‘crane grab’ machines. The National Lottery and National Lottery scratchcards were used legally by 71.6% and 68.5% of gamblers between the ages of 16 and 17.

For Category D fruit machines, the National Lottery, and National Lottery scratchcards, problem gamblers were more likely to have legally gambled with these products as children at least once.

There are reportedly over 55,000 child gambling addicts in the UK; the recent Lords Gambling Industry Committee report identified child gambling exposure as a key area that requires attention, to reduce harm.

Dr Lukasz Walasek, associate professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick, said: “Our research is important for the public because it concludes that Lottery products should not be accessible to anyone under the age of 18.”

“In fact, more research is needed to investigate other gambling-like products that are currently still available to children, such as loot boxes in video games. The law needs to protect children from gambling-related harm in both the short and long term.”

Dr Steve Sharman, research fellow at the School of Psychology, University of East London.

“We welcome the news that the government is likely to increase the age limit for Lottery products to 18, as our research has demonstrated a statistically robust link between legal youth gambling and adult gambling problems.

“This move represents a small but significant step in the right direction of protecting children from gambling harm.”

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