Too many children are hooked on gambling. Why aren’t they protected?

Gambling is everywhere. It is on our TVs during football games, on our smartphones and computers, in video games and on our high streets. For adults, this can be a serious issue, particularly if you suffer from addiction, or are at risk of developing a problem – which is the case for more than 2 million people in Britain. As we know and must be vocal about, gambling addiction can lead people to taking their own lives.

It is deeply concerning to learn that 55,000 11- to 16-year-olds are classified as problem gamblers – a number that has quadrupled in the past two years. Added to that, there are another 70,000 11- to 16-year-olds who are considered at risk of developing a problem. Compared to other potentially harmful activities, the rate of gambling in the past week among young people is higher than the rates of drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or taking illegal drugs. This underlines the need to treat gambling in Britain as a serious public health issue.

Children are growing up in a very different world to the one in which their parents did. The Gambling Commission reports that 450,000 11- to 16-year-olds are gambling an average of £16 per week. Significantly, 59% of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen gambling advertisements on social media, compared with 66% on television. More than one in 10 11- to 16-year-olds follow gambling companies on social media, and they are three times more likely to spend money on gambling. Of those who have ever played online gambling-style games, 24% follow gambling companies online.

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