Almost half of children aged 11 to 16 say they have gambled recently

Almost half of children aged 11 to 16 say they have gambled recently

Almost half of children aged 11 to 16 have admitted to gambling recently, with those from minority ethnic backgrounds more likely to have bet money than their white British counterparts, one of the largest studies of its kind has revealed.

The study carried out by academics from Cardiff University found 41% had taken part in some sort of gambling within the previous 12 months.

Fruit machines at an arcade, pub or club were the most popular form of gambling, followed by playing cards for money with friends and buying scratchcards.

Minority ethnic children reported significantly more gambling – and tended to feel worse about themselves afterwards. Students who felt less connected to school were also more likely to gamble and then feel bad about it, the study concluded.

The researchers said the findings showed more needed to be done to raise awareness of the risks of gambling and called on the industry, politicians, schools and families to give more consideration to limiting children’s exposure to betting.

Graham Moore from the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement said: “While over the past 20 years or so, lots of adolescent risk behaviours like smoking and drinking alcohol have become less common, we are seeing the emergence of new risk behaviours in today’s society. Our research suggests that gambling might be emerging as a new public health issue.

“The evidence shows that people who gamble earlier in life are more likely to become problem gamblers in adulthood. The fact that there is widespread opportunity to gamble and limited education regarding its risks means that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to its harms. More work needs to be done, with policymakers, schools, families and young people, to understand how young people’s exposure to gambling can be reduced.”

More than 37,000 students in Wales responded to the questions on gambling as part of a school health survey. The study did not try to focus on the relatively small number of “problem gamblers” (which it said was 1.7% of UK adolescents) but on all children who had taken part in some sort of betting.

The headline findings are broadly in line with other studies. Last year the Gambling Commission reported that 39% of 11- to 16-year-olds had gambled with their own money.

But the Cardiff researchers flagged up in particular the gambling habits of minority ethnic young people and those who do not feel connected to school. They found the average number of “gambling behaviours” on which young people had spent their own money in the week before they were questioned was two to three times higher for minority ethnic groups than for white British children. Children who “strongly disagreed” they belonged at their school were also much more likely to gamble.

Of those who said they had gambled, 16% said they felt bad as a result. But those from minority ethnic backgrounds and those who felt disconnected to school were three or four times more likely to feel bad about themselves afterwards.

The study’s lead author, Prof GJ Melendez-Torres, who conducted the research at Cardiff University but is now at the University of Exeter, said: “Our findings demonstrate the importance of educating young people and parents about the potential harms of gambling and support policy recommendations for schools and the education sector to raise awareness of these issues.”

Guardian

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