Lindsey Taylor, Education & Training Lead (Devon and Cornwall), Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, writes about common misconceptions about gambling.

Do you know what Gambling is? Are you sure?…

This might seem a silly question to ask – it might seem obvious. And most people in my training and workshops give examples of ‘traditional’ types of gambling – betting on the horses, poker, bingo, arcades and football accumulators. We also tend to think of ‘gambling’ in very black and white terms. Is it a form of gambling, yes or no?

Online Gambling

But now there are also online options via computers and smart phones. Most traditional high street gambling companies have also moved online, as well as many more online only companies. Online you can access gambling websites, games, casinos and apps in the UK and abroad, which allows people access to multiple gambling accounts at all times of the day and night. This has allowed gambling to evolve into something which looks and feels a bit different – now we have to think about how much time people spend online gambling (especially during the Covid 19 pandemic), how easy it is to access, how many options there are and how young people are gambling online. Some online options aren’t currently regulated as gambling, which makes it easy for young people to gamble without realising it or understanding the risks.

Common Misconceptions

Some common misconceptions about gambling are ‘you need to win or lose money for it to be gambling’, ‘the National Lottery isn’t gambling’, ‘you are bound to win at some stage’ and ‘children can’t gamble’. The definition of gambling is ‘To stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance’. It doesn’t matter what form gambling comes in, the process is the same – you are risking money or something of value (including time) hoping you will gain something at the end – but you don’t know what that is. You might have a good idea, but ultimately you don’t know – there is always a risk.

Children and Young People

In the UK gambling is legal – many forms of gambling are aged 18 and above, but many forms you can access as a child. Most of us would have played the crane grabber or penny pusher machines (which have no minimum age limit) at a fair or carnival, or played a raffle or tombola as a child. You can even gamble at McDonalds on Monopoly.

In some countries gambling isn’t legal and in some religions it isn’t accepted, for example gambling is Haram (forbidden by Islam). Gambling should be fun and safe, however there is always a risk that you could lose or it could affect your life in a negative way if you gamble too much. Most people’s first response is to refer to money, but someone in recovery from problem gambling recently told me ‘I always say losing the
time spent gambling is my biggest regret – I should have been educating myself, progressing at work or spending quality time with the kids’. And sometimes we do gamble without realising it, in particular with our children around us.

Recent research also has shown links between early exposure to gambling through adverts or parental gambling, and problem gambling in later life.

A Hidden Addiction

Currently 55,000 11 to 16 years olds are classed as Problem Gamblers with a further 87,000 at risk of becoming
a Problem Gambler.

The nature of harmful gambling means that it is often secretive – it is known as the ‘hidden addiction’. It can be hard to tell when someone is addicted to gambling, there often aren’t physical signs like there can be with substance or alcohol misuse. This means that people don’t talk about gambling, and family and friends don’t know when someone is struggling with problem gambling. But there are warning signs and impacts to look out for like lying, becoming isolated, becoming withdrawn, committing crime and missing school, college or work.

And the impacts aren’t always financial. Problem gambling can affect mental health, relationships and overall wellbeing and it can also affect people around the problem gambler – and the free support services are there for their affected family and friends also.

At the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme we run free workshops for young people and free training for adults around Gambling Harm Awareness, and how to talk to someone about gambling.

If you would like to learn more about understanding gambling and problem gambling, online gaming and gambling, warning signs of problem gambling and the free support services, feel free to book onto an online session.

For more information visit our Young People’s Service page.