03 August 2020

The UK is one of the few countries in the world that legally permits children to gamble in numerous channels. Legal child gambling in the UK is strongly associated with adult disordered gambling, specifically Lottery products, according to new research.

The  Associations between Recalled Use of Legal UK Youth Gambling Products and Adult Disordered Gambling study, to be published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, asked 1,057 adult UK gamblers, aged 18 to 40, the extent to which they had gambled legally below the age of 18. Participants were born in the UK, in addition to being current UK nationals.

Led by Dr Philip W.S. Newall at CQUniversity in Melbourne, the research team comprised Dr Alex M. T. Russell, also of CQUniversity; Dr Steve Sharman of the University of East London (UEL) and Dr Lukasz Walasek, associate professor, University of Warwick. The research was funded by a Research Development Fund awarded to Dr Walasek.

Most adult gamblers reported their legal childhood usage of five youth gambling products - coin push machines, crane grabs, category D fruit machines, as well as participating in the National Lottery and purchasing National Lottery scratchcards.

With the adult disordered gambling symptoms measured by the Problem Gambling Severity Index, rates of recollected legal engagement varied from 50.9% for Category D fruit machines to 96.6% for 'coin push' machines, and 93.8% for 'crane grab' machines. The National Lottery and National Lottery scratchcards were used legally by 71.6% and 68.5% of gamblers between the ages of 16 and 17.

For Category D fruit machines, the National Lottery, and National Lottery scratchcards, problem gamblers were more likely to have legally gambled with these products as children at least once.

There are reportedly over 55,000 child gambling addicts in the UK; the House of Lords Gambling Committee's latest report Gambling Harm - Time for Action identified child gambling exposure as a key area that requires attention, to reduce harm.

We welcome the news that the government is likely to increase the age limit for lottery products to 18, as our research has demonstrated a statistically robust link between legal youth gambling and adult gambling problems,"

Dr Steve Sharman, UEL research fellow at the School of Psychology, said.


Dr Sharman continued, "This move represents a small but significant step in the right direction of protecting children from gambling harm. However, our research suggests that the minimum age of 18 should not just be applied to lottery products, but to all forms of gambling."

Dr Lukasz Walasek, associate professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick, said: "Our research is important for the public because it concludes that lottery products should not be accessible to anyone under the age of 18."

Related topics