The number of problem child gamblers has quadrupled to 50,000 in just two years, a rise that has been branded a “generational scandal”.
An audit by the Gambling Commission found 70,000 young people were also at risk of having a problem and 450,000 children (one in seven) bet regularly.
They found 14 per cent of children aged between 11 and 16 had spent their own money on gambling in the week prior to the survey – up 12 per cent from 2017 –spending on average £16 each.
This compares to 13 per cent of the age group who had drunk alcohol and 2 per cent who’d taken illegal drugs.
The most common routes into gambling activities for children were private betting with their friends (6 per cent), National lottery scratch cards (4 per cent), and fruit machines or slot machines in a pub or club (3 per cent).
Marc Etches, CEO, of GambleAware says: “It is completely unacceptable that so many children are now considered to be problem gamblers. This is a stark reminder that gambling is a public health issue and we cannot ignore it.”
GambleAware are also encouraging schools to teach students about the risks of gambling and asking parents to have the talk about potential harms. But how and when do you have the chat with your children?
How Do I Know If My Child Has A Problem?
The Gambling Commission uses a set of nine questions to identify children who are problem gamblers or at-risk of becoming a problem. Parents can ask the same questions and give their child a score out of nine.
A child who says they’ve undertaken four or more of the following behaviours are considered a problem gambler. A score of two or three is used to identify an at-risk gambler and a score of zero or one indicates a non-problem gambler.
The question is in the middle column and the response on the right-hand side.
How Do I Talk To My Child About Gambling?
Once you’ve decided whether you think your child has a problem, do you start a conversation or should you get someone more qualified to talk to them?
Gambling rehabilitation clinic, Triora, says the best way parents can approach this is being open and honest with your child and starting a dialogue.
“Talk openly about the problem, your concerns for your son or daughter, and the effects of their behaviour on your family,” says a spokesperson.
Part of being a loving parent isn’t always about enabling your child. You may, for example, decide not to give them money that you suspect will only go to feed their addiction. “Set boundaries for yourself and those around you. Do not allow your addicted child to pull you down with them,” they add.
And finally, support your child to get professional help if that is what they need. “It may be some time before they are willing to accept that they have a problem. They may well try to blame you,” they say.