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“They make it look like a game, it does not look like gambling.” - New research finds children’s online spaces “saturated” with gambling-like content and advertising

“They make it look like a game, it does not look like gambling.” - New research finds children’s online spaces “saturated” with gambling-like content and advertising

GambleAware publishes new qualitative study into the lived experience of gambling amongst children and young people.

  • Report finds children describe how their online spaces can feel ”saturated” with gambling and gambling-like content and advertising.
  • Researchers identified how the risks of online gambling are not understood by children due to the blurred lines between gambling and gambling-like activity such as loot boxes.
  • GambleAware is calling for more regulation on gambling advertising online and in public spaces to protect children.

GambleAware, the leading charity which commissions gambling harms prevention and treatment services in Great Britain, is calling for more regulation of gambling advertising as it releases a new research report showing how gambling affects the lives of children and young people1.

The report found that gambling was understood to be a normal part of everyday life, and children described it as a part of their experience of growing up. Gambling content was seen with things such as horse racing, scratch cards and the National Lottery, while content that felt like gambling was seen in online games with gambling-like features such as loot boxes. The bright, loud and eye-catching nature of gambling adverts drew children and young people in, and many reported that gambling could look like gaming and vice versa, and the look and feel of the two worlds felt interchangeable.

The report also shows how the risks of online gambling are not understood by children due to the blurred lines between gambling and gambling-like activity such as loot boxes in games.

One boy aged 15-16, who took part in the research, said about gambling advertising2:They make it look like a game, it does not look like gambling.” 

Many of the children and young people who took part in the research said they would like more education on gambling harm in schools. They also said they wanted to have more information about where they can get support if needed.

A girl who was aged 13-14 and was an affected other said3: “[In] PHSE, they said it [gambling] is dangerous… but it didn’t proper like get through because they didn’t give us a lot of information about it.”

Previous GambleAware-funded research has shown that 96% of 11–14-year-olds in Great Britain had awareness of gambling marketing from the previous month, but only 38% were aware of any health information or warnings on gambling adverts4.

Other findings in the report include children describing how their online spaces can feel ”saturated” with gambling and gambling-like content and advertising. Also, most children had participated in some form of occasional gambling activity, often led by a parent or family member. For example, children reported that adults around them had put money in fruit machines, placed bets on sporting events on their behalf or bought them lottery tickets. This early exposure to gambling could be damaging in the long term; previous research has found that 13–25-year-olds who had the greatest exposure to gambling were 2.3 times more likely to experience problem gambling in their lifetime5.

Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, said: “This research shows that gambling content is now part of many children’s lives. This is worrying as early exposure to gambling can normalise gambling for children at a young age, and lead to problems.

“We need to see more restrictions put on gambling advertising and content to ensure it is not appearing in places where children can see it. Urgent action is needed to protect children because they can be seriously affected by gambling harm, as a result of someone else’s gambling or their own participation.”

Hanna Chalmers, Founder of CultureStudio Research said: "We carried out this research to find out more about the lived experiences and the realities of gambling and gambling-related harms amongst children. From the interviews we conducted we found that children are noticing gambling content in the world around them, which does affect them. Protections do need to be put in place to ameliorate harm and to ensure that gambling is not having a negative impact on children and young people's lives today."

Nicki Karet, Managing Director of Sherbert Research said: “The grey area between online gambling and gambling-like gaming is confusing especially for younger children and blurs the lines between what is and isn’t gambling. This grey area is further confusing because gambling advertising, particularly online, often uses visuals and tonal expressions that can be seen to directly target children, such as cartoon graphics, bright colours and sounds. I believe that regulation is needed to prevent this type of content from appearing where children can see it.”

Dr Barbie Clarke, Managing Director of Family Kids & Youth said: “Our research with vulnerable children found that they can be more impressionable and trusting than other children of their age. Developmental and cognitive differences - for example difficulty in recognising other’s thoughts, decision making, reasoning and executive functioning (which can increase impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours) - can all impact these children’s understanding and engagement with gambling. They are also the least likely to seek support, and protection is needed to ensure they are not harmed.“ 

Sam Starsmore, who has lived experience of gambling harm, said: “Gambling can have a huge effect on you when you’re young. I began gambling at the age 16 as an escape mechanism from issues I was dealing with at home, and the first thing I did on the day I turned 18 was open an online gambling account. Going to the bookies with my friends started as something to do socially, but then I moved on to gambling by myself because I didn’t want anyone else to know about the amounts I was spending and losing. I want to see more being done to protect children and young people to ensure the necessary safeguards and education is in place, so they don’t start gambling at young ages and have the same experiences I did.”

Read the full "Qualitative Research on the Lived Experience and Views of Gambling among Children and Young People" report

GambleAware has also just published scoping reviews on inequalities, vulnerabilities, and risk factors, and interventions, practices, and systems to support children and young people at risk of gambling harms


Notes to Editors

1. GambleAware commissioned the report, which is based on interviews with children and young people between the ages of 7-25 and their families, to build knowledge and understand their perspectives on how gambling impacts their everyday lives. The research was carried out independently by CultureStudio Research, a research consultancy which takes a holistic approach to understanding people’s needs, thoughts and behaviours within the framework of culture and everyday life, Family Kids & Youth, a research agency which has carried out many global studies on children’s use of digital devices, multimedia platforms, parenting, play, advertising and communication, diet and activities, and Sherbert Research, a boutique agency that specialises in generating insights from research with children, teens, families and other important people in their lives. The report looks at the experiences of three particular groups:

  • Children aged under 11
  • Children and young people who were considered vulnerable aged 11-17
  • Children and young people who were affected by a loved one’s gambling (‘affected others’) aged 7-25

2. There is no commonly used definition of childhood vulnerability, but the definition of vulnerable – from the No Child Left Behind (2022) report, published by Public Health England - states that a child can be vulnerable to risks and poor outcomes because of individual characteristics; the impact of action or inaction by other people; and their physical and social environment. Additional factors could include the child’s physical, emotional, health and educational needs, any harm the child has experienced or may be at risk of experiencing – these can include a specific set of childhood experiences known as ‘adverse childhood experiences’, the capability of the child’s carers and wider family environment to meet the child’s needs, or to cause harm – these might include homelessness or poor housing conditions, the presence of adults in the home with mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependence, or contact with the criminal justice system, domestic abuse and poverty.

3. An affected other is someone who is affected by someone else’s gambling, such as a friend, family member, or other loved one.



6. GambleAware has also previously commissioned a report into the effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults.

7. Further similar research on the impact of gambling on children is available here:

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GambleAware has adopted an open research model to ensure that the research it funds will be transparent and accessible to achieve the greatest impact while ensuring the highest confidence in commissioned work.