The participation of children and young people in ‘gambling’ and ‘gambling-themed’ games online has exploded to potentially 500,000 every week according to a recent survey.
Technology and easy access to the internet are providing the opportunity for minors under the age of 18 to experience gambling through a number of free-to-play casino games, video games and some apps.
The survey discovered that 1 in 10 young people claimed they had taken part in some form of free-to-play casino game. These were typically accessed through a smartphone of a tablet and commonly involved some form of social or community play.
The UK Gambling Commission, who produced the report, are concerned about the lack of protections provided in these environments which typically do not disclose any messages to warn the participant that they are actually gambling.
Tim Miller, Gambling Commission Executive Director said: “We require gambling operators to have strong protections in place to prevent children from accessing their products and are actively reviewing how some, like age verification, can continue to be strengthened.”
The report did also highlight that it was not just online that children were exposed to gambling or took part in some way. Fruit and slot machines in bars, betting between friends and scratch cards were also flagged.
Mr Miller said: “It is clear that many children’s experiences of gambling-style activities are coming from the playground, the games console or social media rather than the bookmaker, the casino or the gambling website.
“That’s why it is essential that we work across industries and with parents so that together we can protect children and encourage those that choose to gamble in adulthood to do so safely.”
The report also shone a light on ‘skin betting’, a relatively new form of gambling where players can gamble with virtual items in some video games. The ‘skins’ are typically virtual items like weapons in a computer game. These have different values and owners of these items can be encouraged to gamble these in exchange for advancements in the game or other skins.
The survey revealed that 11% of 11-16 year-olds had engaged in some form of ‘skins’ betting, with little or no understanding that it was actually a form of gambling.
The UK Gambling Commission has made it a top priority to tackle gambling among children, which has some dire consequences if sufficient safeguards are not put in place.