How to Protect Children from Underage Gambling
Children today have access to the internet at home, school and even on the go, presenting new challenges to parents and carers who strive to raise their children in a safe environment. As a parent/carer, you likely already have some ground rules in place that promote positivity and safety both on and offline, however, the topic of underage gambling is one that is often overlooked.
As a general rule, the minimum legal age for gambling in the UK is 18 years old. This applies to adult gaming centres, betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, racetracks and online gambling. The exceptions to this are the National Lottery and scratchcards – you’re allowed to take part in these from the age of 16. Despite this, the Gambling Commission’s 2018 Young People and Gambling report suggests that 450,000 children in the UK aged 11 to 16 bet regularly. 1.7% of 11-16 year olds are classified as ‘problem’ gamblers, 2.2% as ‘at risk’ and 32.5% as non-problem gamblers.
The Gambling Commission works closely with gambling businesses to enforce its policies to prevent underage gambling, however regulation alone can’t address all of the risks that young people may face from gambling. Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, said: ‘Our latest research shows that the most common forms of gambling by children do not happen in gambling premises… It is therefore vital that all those with a part to play in protecting children and young people – parents, businesses and regulators – work together.’
Here at Casino Genius, we believe that it’s best to take an active approach to responsible gambling, which is why we’ve created this guide to help you protect your child from underage gambling. Let us take you through the steps you can take to ensure your children remain safe both online and offline, and what to do if you’re concerned about an underage gambler.
Start a conversation about problem gambling
Having a conversation may seem like an obvious first step, which is why it’s so surprising that less than half of respondents in the Gambling Commission study said that someone had spoken to them about the problems that gambling can cause. In the instances that a conversation did take place, it was typically with a parent (40%) or teacher (21%).
With so many gambling adverts on TV and radio, as well as the numerous gambling sponsorships littered throughout sports, there are plenty of opportunities to spark a conversation to educate children about gambling and the dangers involved.
When talking to children about problem gambling, consider the following:
- Teach them the risk of financial loss when placing a bet
- Educate them about the low odds of winning online casino games, lotteries and scratchcards, as well as the unpredictable nature of betting on sports
- Discuss the risk of developing a gambling addiction, much like you would when warning against the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse
- Show them how to identify a gambling problem
If you find that your child is an underage gambler, try to remain empathetic and understand what they are going through. GambleAware advises that ‘those who feel understood are more likely to talk openly and honestly, which will allow you to develop and negotiate a plan together.’ You’ll find more on how to help once you’ve identified a gambling problem here at Gamble Aware.
Set strict gambling rules
The Gambling Commission’s report found 60% of young people think their parents would prefer them not to gamble at all. However just one in five 11-16 year olds stated that their parents set strict rules about gambling with no negotiation. A further 7% said that they discussed and agreed rules with their parents that they were expected to follow.
As a follow up to your conversation about problem gambling, it’s important to discuss and agree on gambling rules. These rules should make it clear that there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage gambling and that there’s no room for negotiation.
The study suggests that the majority of children in the UK are likely to follow these rules, as only 14% of 11-16 year olds agree that it is OK for someone their age to gamble. While this may be the case, children will be more likely to see the importance of a rule if they understand the reasoning behind it. So, when outlining your ground rules for gambling, you should also highlight the risks associated with problem gambling, aside from financial loss.
According to Gamble Aware, problem gambling is ‘associated with educational problems such as low attainment and truancy, can lead to emotional, social and behavioural problems, and worryingly, those who begin their gambling careers earlier in life are more likely to be problem gamblers in adulthood.’
Monitor your child’s online activity
Virtually every online gambling site will request its customers to go through some sort of Know Your Customer (KYC) procedure at some point to verify their identity and age. Usually, if you don’t provide the information required to complete the process, your gambling provider will take steps to restrict your account and may not accept further deposits or bets. While this is an effective measure to combat underage gambling, it doesn’t protect children from unauthorised use of a parent/guardian’s account. In fact, the Gambling Commission’s study found that 6% of 11-16 year olds have gambled online using a parent or guardian’s account.
This is why it’s important that you create an individual account on your computer, specifically for your child. Setting up an individual account for your child will significantly reduce the chances of them gaining unauthorised access to online gambling, especially if there are payment and login details stored on your personal account. Furthermore, never leave your device unattended when you are logged in and ensure that your personal account is password-protected.
Install software that blocks gambling activity
Once you’ve set up an individual computer account for your child, you may want to take extra precaution to further reduce the chances of underage gambling occurring. Putting parental controls in place on the PC, Mac, Android or iOS device that your child uses can help you block or filter the content your child sees when using the internet. In addition to the built-in parental controls on the device, third-party software is available for download. Of course, we encourage you to carry out your own research to find the most suitable option, but there are a few recommended software options.
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Avoid gambling in the presence of your child
A quarter of the participants in the Gambling Commission’s study stated that they have seen one of their parents or guardians gamble, with 2% responding that they see them gambling every day.
Parents are often their children’s first teacher, so your day-to-day behaviour directly influences your child. Children are prone to imitate the actions of those around them, especially adults. It should come as no surprise then, that 6% of young people stated that they gamble because it’s something their parents/guardians do. To avoid influencing your child to gamble, even unintentionally, we recommend avoiding gambling activities when in the presence of your child.
Monitor your child’s spending habits
Over the past 12 months, 39% of 11-16 year olds have spent their own money on gambling. Among those who had gambled in the past week prior to being surveyed, the average spend on gambling activities was £16 from an average disposable income of £28 (money given to them as pocket money or money earned in the past week). These results highlight the importance of monitoring your child’s spending habits.
While you can come to an agreement with your child to monitor their monthly statements if they use a bank account, there are some helpful tools available that can help you manage their spending.
Gohenry is a prepaid card and app designed for young people aged six to 18 in collaboration with Visa. You can set up automatic pocket money transfers to your child’s account and put spending rules in place for your child.
Osper is a mobile banking service that also offers debit cards for kids aged eight to 18, which is licensed by MasterCard. Children can download an app to track their spending and saving each month, while parents get their own app to set allowances, oversee spending, load money and lock the card if it’s been lost or stolen.
RoosterMoney allows your child to sign up to their digital tracker which lets them keep track of their money, save towards goals and earn rewards while you oversee what money goes in and out of their account.
Be wary of gambling activity on video games
The most common forms of gambling include betting shops, bingo halls, online casinos, racetracks and online gambling. What you may not know, however, is that gambling can also take place in association with video games. This is often referred to as ‘skin gambling’ or ‘skin betting’, an activity that has skyrocketed in popularity alongside the rise of esports in recent years.
“Skins’ are in-game items, used within some of the most popular video game titles. They provide cosmetic alterations to a player’s weapons, avatar or equipment used in the game. Skins betting sites allow video gamers to wager cosmetic items rewarded in-game or purchased for real money on a digital marketplace, accessible from the UK for several years. The Gambling Commission takes the view that the ability to convert in-game items to cash, or to trade them (for other items of value) means they attain a real-world value and become articles of money or money’s worth.”
Gambling Commission’s Young People & Gambling 2018 Report
Where gambling facilities are offered in the UK, including with the use of in-game items that can be converted into cash or traded for items of value, a gambling licence is required. Tackling operators making gambling facilities available to children is one of the Gambling Commission’s priorities. This has been demonstrated by action taken against unlicensed websites providing facilities for gambling using in-game items as methods for payment.
Despite the action taken by the Gambling Commission to crack down on skin gambling amongst children, 31% of the young people surveyed have opened loot boxes in a computer game or app, to try to acquire in-game items, while 3% claim to have bet with in-game items.
Of course, it’s difficult to track your child’s activity on a video game in a similar way you would their finances. However, being aware of which games can involve skin gambling is an important first step. The following titles have seen gambling using virtual goods:
Skin gambling gained notoriety and primarily occurs in association with the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), produced by Valve Corporation. Users can use third-party sites to trade, buy and sell skins from their inventories, in exchange for real money, or digital currency. Valve has no relationship with these sites and condemns the practice. It is a violation of Steam’s terms of service and has Valve has said it began blocking many CS:GO gambling accounts.
Another Valve production, Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2), has also seen skin gambling that involves the trading of virtual goods. Much like CS:GO, Dota 2 has a huge library of cosmetic items, often referred to as ‘hats’. These change the appearance of in game items such as cosmetic clothing and weapon replacements for the game’s playable characters.
Following Valve’s crackdown on CS:GO gambling sites, a number of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) cropped up. The model for PUBG skin gambling is largely the same as that of CS:GO and Dota 2; the skins can be use in game, but can also be sold or wagers on esports matches using third-party sites.
Team Fortress 2
More recently, some sites began leveraging Team Fortress 2 (TF2) items. In a statement released by Valve, the company advised players not to trade with these sites, warning that TF2 accounts would be banned.
The popular FIFA series by Electronic Arts features the Ultimate Team mode, where players use virtual coins to create a team based on real-world football players. These coins can be earned through completing games, but can also be purchased with real money. The mechanisms behind FIFA’s virtual currency has led to the creation of third-party gambling sites and black markets.
Make Use of Responsible Gambling Resources
There are a number of organisations in the UK that offer support to people who think they may have a gambling problem, or know someone that is a problem gambler. These organisations have trained advisors that offer confidential support, free of charge. If you suspect there may be a problem, don’t hesitate to seek help from the following organisations:
GamCare is the leading national provider of information, support, advice and free treatment for anyone affected by problem gambling. It’s site features a self assessment tool, as well as live chat and a forum. Gamcare also operate the National Gambling Helpline.
National Gambling Helpline Freephone: 08088020133
BeGambleAware is a site funded by GambleAware, the leading charity in the UK committed to reducing gambling-related harms. It offers a huge range of support, including live chat, access to face-to-face counselling and information that can help you and your child understand gambling and its dangers.
Gamblers Anonymous is a support group of men and women who work together through meetings, as well as anonymous forums and chat rooms to combat their personal gambling problems. Their site features a range of literature on tackling problem gambling, including a publication titled ‘Young Gamblers in Recovery’.
Big Deal is an online service launched by GamCare in 2017 to educated young people about responsible gambling and its dangers. It also provides advice for parents and carers on how to protect your children from underage gambling.
Internet Matters is a non-profit organisation that works across industry, government and with schools to reach UK families with tools, tips and resources to empower parents and carers to keep children safe in the digital world.
Young Gamblers Education Trust
The Young Gamblers Education Trust (known as YGAM) is a charity with a purpose to ‘inform, educate and safeguard young people against problematic gambling and social gaming’. YGAM delivers accredited training to teachers, youth workers and community volunteers, amongst others, allowing them to deliver the YGAM gambling-related harm prevention programme. YGAM also works with universities to train and employ students to deliver this programme, as well as awareness campaigns within their universities and local communities.
The findings of the Gambling Commission’s study makes should serve as a warning to parents in the UK and a prompt to take action now. Whether or not you’re concerned about your child participating in underage gambling, it’s important to educate them about gambling and the dangers that problem gambling can lead to. You should also take steps to protect them from viewing unsuitable content on the internet – after all, prevention is better than cure.