Gambling in Young People

Updated: Apr 14

Gambling in Young People
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Executive Summary

In 11-16 year old’s in Great Britain:

  • 1 in 3 gambled using their own money in the past 12 months (36%, 1,150,000 individuals)

  • More than 1 in 10 gambled with their own money in the past week (11%, 356, 000 individuals)

  • 1 in 20 suffer gambling harm due to their own gambling in the past year (4.4%, 142, 000 individuals)

  • The most common gambling harm occurred due to illegal acts (3.8% in the past 12 months, 123, 000 individuals)

  • 1 in 60 11-16-year-olds suffer from the most severe form of gambling harm (1.7%, 55, 000 individuals)

  • Gambling has become increasingly normalized due to extensive advertising online and in sports (ad spend grew by 56% over 2014-2017)

  • The most prevalent form of wagering activity amongst young people is in video games.(48.0% life-time)


This is the first review to concisely collect, collate, and analyse the evidence on the prevalence of gambling harm among young people in GB.

In 2019, the past week, gambling was reported to have declined to an all-time low of 11% from a peak of 23% in 2011. Despite this, the percentage of underage problem gamblers, risk-gamblers, and social gamblers were reported close to the 10-year high at 1.7%, 2.7%, and 31.0%, respectively.


Advertising spend in 2017 (2014)

All advertising spend in UK £22.2bn (£18.6bn)

GB Gambling industry advertising spend: £1.561bn, 7.0% (£1.003bn, 5.4%)

Online Marketing e.g. banner ads, paid search: £0.747bn (£0.400bn)

Affiliates e.g. relationships with content providers: £0.301bn, 54.3% (£0.282bn)

Television e.g. advertising, programme sponsorship: £0.234bn (£0.155bn)

Social Media e.g. Facebook content, commercial Twitter feed £0.149bn (0.042bn)

Sponsorship e.g. football shirts, horse races £0.060bn (£0.03bn)

Other offline advertising e.g. print newspaper ads, billboards £0.070bn (0.094bn)

We estimate that the GB gambling industry spent:

  • GB Gambling Industry Advertising spend grew by 55.6% over 2014 and 2017 (£1.561bn/£1.003bn)

  • 54.3% of all affiliate advertising spend in 2017 (£0.301bn/£0.55bn)

  • 10.4% of all online advertising spend in 2017 (£1.197bn/£11.55bn)

  • 7.0% and 5.4% of all advertising spend in 2017 and 2014, respectively (relative growth of 30% in 3 years)

  • 4.6% of all television advertising spend in 2017 (£0.234bn/£5.11bn)

NB: These figures and estimates represent the GB gambling industry expenditure and do not include the amounts spent by foreign betting companies in Great Britain.

Exposure of advertising

Prevalence of Adolescent Gambling in Europe

Varying definitions of adolescent gambling with some studies including individuals up to 24 years old.

  • Out of 12 studies done across Europe but excluding those in GB in recent decades, between 35.7% and 79.1% of young people gambled in the past year (Different screens include: CPGI: 31 questions, SOGA-RA: 12 questions, DSM-IV-MR-J: 9 questions)

  • Across studies on adolescent gambling in Europe but excluding those in GB, past year problem gambling has ranged from 1.3% to 5.2%

  • In a 2019 study on 11-16-year-olds in Wales, 41.0% gambled in the past 12 months, of whom 16.2% (or 6.6% of the overall 11-16-year-old population) reported feeling bad as a result of their own gambling.

  • ESPAD 2019 (35 European countries but not including the UK) reported an average of excessive gambling and problem gambling rate among 16-year-old students of 3.8% (3-questions) and 1.4% (2-questions), respectively

Prevalence of under 16s gambling in Great Britain

Past week prevalence of gambling using own money (DSM-IV-MR-J)

11-15-year-olds (England and Wales)

2014: 16% (11-15-year-olds) (original paper could not be retrieved; compared in 2015)

2015: 17% (11-15-year-olds)

2016: 16% (11-15-year-olds)

11-16-year-olds (Great Britain)

2017: 12% (11-16-year-olds)

2018: 14% (11-16-year-olds)

2019: 11% (11-16-year-olds)

Past 12 months prevalence of gambling using own money:

2015: 30% (11-15-year-olds in England and Wales)

2016 and 2017: NA

2018: 39% (11-16-year-olds in GB)

2019: 36% (11-16-year-olds in GB)

Referring to the past 12 months:

Social gambler + At-risk gambler + Problem gambler = Total gambler (Using DSM-IV-MR-J screen)

2014: 12% + 1.2% + 0.7% = 13.9% (12-15 year olds in England and Wales)

2015: 13% + 1.2% + 0.6% = 14.8% (12-15 year olds in England and Wales)

2016: 10.2% + 1.6% + 0.4% = 12.2% (12-15 year olds in England and Wales)

2017: 15.5% + 1.3% + 0.9% = 17.7% (11-16 year olds in GB)

2018: 32.5% + 2.2% + 1.7% = 37.4% (11-16 year olds in GB)

2019: 31.5% + 2.7% + 1.7% = 35.9% (11-16 year olds in GB)

Prevalence of harm in under 16s gambling in Great Britain (2019)

In the past year

Popularity by type of gambling activity (percentage ever played)

In-game items, otherwise known as loot boxes or skin betting, are the most popular betting activity in 11-16-year old's but are not yet considered gambling by the Gambling Commission.


  • In 2019, the YPG reported 35.9% of 11-16-year-olds to be gamblers. The results from YPG have consistently been below or at the lower end of the range provided by 12 studies in Europe, and this is in some cases because 16-24-year-olds have been omitted from young person studies (included in adult studies in GB)

  • Among 12-15-year olds, 14.8% and 12.2% were identified as gamblers (a combination of problem gamblers, at-risk-gamblers, and social gamblers) in 2015 and 2016. These results appear to contradict other findings from the same studies. Notably, the percentage of 11-15-year olds who spent their own money on a gambling activity in the week before the survey was reported at 17% and 16% in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The same inconsistency is perceived in the Young Person Gambling Report 2014. A lack of critical discussion on this point is suggestive of significant issues with reporting of prevalence in YPG studies

  • We hypothesise the prevalence of gambling harm in young people is underestimated due to selection bias resulting at school and student level and due to issues with self-reporting as seen in adult surveys.

  • Betting via video games is the most prevalent gambling activity in the under 16s in GB, yet video game frequency has not been measured.

  • All RET efforts should refrain from using social gamblers amongst under 16s as by the Gambling Commission's definition, all under 16s may be deemed to be vulnerable, and this term also produces a misleading effect of implying that gambling is safe at this age.


Gambling has become normalized due to extensive advertising across online media and sports sponsorships. To reduce gambling rates amongst young people, a comprehensive advertisement ban should be considered immediately.

Gambling is prevalent amongst young people in Great Britain and abroad.

In 11-16 year old’s in Great Britain:

  • 1 in 3 gambled using their own money in the past 12 months, with the most common gambling activity being in-game (48.0% lifetime)

  • 1 in 20 suffer gambling harm due to their own gambling in the past year, with the most common harm occurring due to illegal acts (3.8% in the past 12 months)

Despite being a vulnerable gambling group, there have been no attempts at evaluating the significance of social gambling harm, at-risk gambling harm, and problem-gambling harm among 11-16-year-olds.


Define vulnerable person

The Commission does not seek to define ‘vulnerable persons,’ but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes:

  • people who gamble more than they want to,

  • people who gamble beyond their means and,

  • people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to, for example, mental health, a learning disability, or substance misuse relating to alcohol or drugs.