A worrying 300% jump in the number of children engaged in problem gambling behaviour is due to “the growing presence of simulated gambling in video games,” according to Dr Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, one of the UK’s leading specialists in behavioural addiction.
Griffiths’ comments have come on the back of a report from the UK Gambling Commission which observed a jump in the number of problem gamblers under the age of 18 from around 12,500 in 2016 to 50,000 in 2018.
Promoting Gambling Mindset
Whilst it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 in the UK to engage in online gambling activity, other forms of gambling – including slot machines, scratch cards and interaction with peers – remain accessible for most adolescents.
The point-in-time study of just over 450,000 British children by the Gambling Commission found that 14% of those surveyed had gambled in the seven days prior to the survey itself, spending on average £16 over the course of that same week, with the Commission concluding that 11-16 year olds are more likely to gamble than smoke, take drugs or consume alcohol.
Although changes in data methodology over the last two years are thought by some to explain some of the increase, Griffiths has asserted that “one of the main factors will have been the growing presence of simulated gambling in video games.”
Whilst online gaming does not generally facilitate explicit gambling activities, it may condition behaviours which are later favorable to the adoption of gambling as a regular activity, particularly games “where the likelihood of winning rare or powerful items is slim,” adds Griffiths.