Gambling starts as early as 11 years of age fueled by parents who allow their children to play video games and apps that simulate betting, a research in New South Wales (NSW) found out.
Video Games with Elements of Gambling
The NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020 by CQUniversity, a survey of 551 young people within a range of focus groups commissioned for the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling discovered about 40% of children at the age between 12 and 17 play video games which resemble gambling.
Despite the illegal status of underage gambling, 30% of responding children said they had placed a bet for money in the past year, the most common gambling forms being bingo, online and retail sports betting, scratch-off and lottery tickets and informal games of poker taking place at school.
According to Natalie Wright, director of the Office of Responsible Gambling in NSW, there is a worrying trend of convergence between gaming and gambling, due to the various forms of loot boxes, digital grab bags and others implemented in video games which stimulate spending of real money and increase the potential for gambling harm.
“Games are exposing young children to gambling at a much earlier age. And parents are the biggest enablers. These games which mimic real gambling are potentially gateways to traditional gambling for young people.”
Natalie Wright, Director, Office of Responsible Gambling, NSW
Parents Encourage Children to Gamble
The survey found out that 54% of the children were gambling with a parent or guardian, while 20% were undertaking the risky behavior with grandparents. It pointed out 3.7% of young people are already at risk of developing or showing signs of problem gambling.
Around 58% of those who gamble come from homes where gambling occurs with adults, and the most common way for young people to get access to online gambling was through a parent’s account with the permission of the parent, and in some cases money given to their children specifically for gambling purposes.
The second ranked factor leading to problem gambling behavior at an early age is the increased exposure to gambling advertising, as 46% of the responding children noted they had seen ads on television while watching sports and racing broadcasts.
The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s chief advocate Reverend Tim Costello singled out loot boxes as “acting as a gateway to gambling”, getting children hooked at an early age and making it seem like gambling is a normal part of sports.
Indeed, around two-thirds of respondents said they had opened or purchased a loot box in the past year, while another study found out about 33% of young people spend AU$10 a month on loot boxes.
Children’s access to gambling apps increases the risk for them to become addicted in their youth as it effectively rewires their brains, a condition which would worsen as the child continues to grow, Natalie Wright noted, outlining the effort of the office on partnerships to reduce gambling ads during sport events as part of the office’s Reclaim the Game initiative.
According to a report on gambling published in Lancet Public Health, gambling should be treated as a health disease in the same category as drug addictions.
The research also found out a correlation between the level of well-being and the propensity to gambling, as well as that those unable to control impulsive behavior due to childhood traumas were more likely to experience at-risk gambling.