By Josie Clarke, Press Association Consumer Affairs Correspondent
National Lottery scratchcards bought by parents and pub fruit machines are among the most common ways children find their way into gambling – and often fall outside effective regulation.
The Gambling Commission warned that while children were gambling via new technologies, such as apps and online casinos, many preferred to gamble in informal environments, out of sight of regulation – such as private bets or playing cards with friends.
Meanwhile regulators are grappling with children’s increased exposure to gambling in the form of the “blurring of lines” between video and social games and betting, while the advertising watchdog recently moved to clarify that the use of cute animated fairies, fairytale figures and Santa in gambling campaigns are likely to fall foul of its rules.
On Wednesday, coinciding with the Gambling Commission’s report into gambling among children, the Advertising Standards Authority banned the placing of a National Lottery scratchcard ad featuring a rainbow directly outside a school.
The Gambling Commission has highlighted the need for a more collaborative, proactive approach to protect young people.
Despite the increase in problem gambling the report found that only 19% of children said their parents had set strict rules about gambling.
Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said: “Our latest research shows that the most common forms of gambling by children do not happen in gambling premises.
“Some of these are legal, such as bets between friends, some of these are unlawful, such as gambling on machines in pubs. But all of them present risks to young people as there is no form of gambling that is risk-free.
“It is therefore vital that all those with a part to play in protecting children and young people – parents, businesses and regulators – work together.”
GambleAware said many parents failed to talk about the risks of gambling to their children in the way they might about alcohol and other risky behaviours, while simultaneously “putting a scratchcard inside a birthday card”.
The charity recently published findings that young problem gamblers do not see gambling as a social activity and often go to great lengths to hide it from their family, making it difficult for parents to support their children when problems occur.
Clare Wyllie, director of research and evaluation at GambleAware, said: “This research highlights the importance of parents in the lives of young people and gambling but also that parents and families are not always aware of the issues young people are facing.
“More research is needed in this area to support policy and practice going forward.”