25,000 children in Britain are problem gamblers, report finds

Gambling Commission says children encounter gambling through social media and computer games

About 25,000 children aged between 11 and 16 are problem gamblers, with many learning to bet via computer games and social media, according to a report that has prompted warnings that Britain is “sleepwalking into a future public health storm”.

In its annual survey of youth gambling (pdf), industry regulator the Gambling Commission voiced fears that children were gambling in a “consequence-free environment”, including through so-called “skins” betting on video games.

Its concerns prompted Labour, which deregulated the gambling industry in 2005 but has changed its stance, to brand existing legislation “woefully out of date”.

About 370,000 (12%) children in England, Scotland and Wales have gambled in the past week, the commission found. More than quarter of a million children gambled with a licensed operator, such as a bookmaker or online casino.

They spent an average of £10 on gambling a week, more than a third of their £28 income from work or pocket money, with 8% claiming to have spent more than £40.

Almost 1% of children aged between 11 and 16, or about 25,000, are defined as problem gamblers, with a further 36,000 at risk of developing a problem.

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