By Mark Fairlie.

There are more than 50,000 children in the UK with a gambling problem, according to a Gambling Commission report. The same report found that another 70,000 children were at risk of developing a gambling problem and that 450,000 children were regularly betting, as reported in the Daily Mail.

The paper also reported that children were, on average, spending £16 a week on

“fruit machines, bingo, betting shops and online games, which are all illegal for under-18s”.

More children placed a bet in the past week than took drugs, smoked tobacco, or drank alcohol. The report blamed the rise in problem gambling among children on the pervasiveness of advertising by gambling companies.


The survey was carried out on behalf of the Gambling Commission by Ipsos Mori. 2,865 11- to 16-year olds took part between 5th February and 2nd July 2018.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, the bishop of St Albans, described the findings as a “generational scandal” and that “we need to start taking the dangers of gambling seriously”.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former addict who speaks for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, told the Daily Mail that “young people think gambling is a part of watching sport”. He warned that, because children don’t have “much life experience”, it’s particularly difficult for them to recover from gambling addiction.

Tim Miller, Executive Director of the Gambling Commission, said that the report found that the most common ways of gambling among children were

“in informal environments, out of sight of regulation – private bets between friends or playing cards with their mates for money”.

He also warned that many non-gambling businesses like pubs with fruit machines prevented children from playing with the machines.

Exposure to gambling adverts

Number of child gamblers rises fourfold in past two years

The Gambling Commission report revealed that two-thirds of 11-16-year-olds had been exposed to gambling adverts on television. This number was 59% for websites and 53% on websites. Around half had seen a TV or heard a radio program sponsored by a gambling company and a slightly smaller number had been exposed to sponsorship by gambling firms at sports venues.

Labour leader, Tom Watson, described ITV’s decision to allow online gambling site, Tombola, to sponsor hit show “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” as “obviously wrong”, reports the Guardian. This followed the party’s call in September to ban gambling adverts during live events and to levy 1% on the industry’s “gross gambling yield” to provide support for gambling addicts (source: BBC).

Kenny Alexander, chief executive of Ladbrokes Coral, called upon the industry to restrict all advertising before 9 pm and during sports broadcasts, excluding horse racing, according to the Times. He said that many are the adverts are

“too aggressive, particularly for young people who are a few years away from being able to gamble. It’s not responsible”.

CampaignLive, an advertising industry trade magazine, reported that satellite broadcaster Sky was to limit gambling adverts to one per commercial break.

Not everyone in the industry agrees, however. Richard Flint, chief executive of Sky Betting and Gaming (now spun off as an independent company from Sky the broadcaster), told the Telegraph that companies should instead be required to target part of their advertising spend towards reducing harm caused by gambling.