What’s Behind Young People Gambling – Why Do They Start

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What influences young people to gamble?

A range of influences make gambling appealing and fun for young people. These include parents or other members of their family, friends and advertising.

We know that advertising and sports betting promotion goes a long way to normalising gambling for children and young people. What may surprise you is how much they’re influenced by adults they know – most commonly parents.

  • On average, young people started simulated gambling and monetary gambling at much the same age (11–12 years).
  • In the previous year, 29.8% had participated in monetary gambling and 40.1% had played games with gambling-like features.
  • The past-year problem-gambling rate was 1.5%, and another 2.2% were at-risk gamblers.
  • Gambling usually occurred with parents or guardians (53.7%), followed by friends aged 17 or under (26.8%), relatives aged 18 years or over (20.7%), relatives under 18 years (20.1%) and grandparents (19.5%). Relatively few (9.1%) gambled alone.
  • Nearly half (46.1%) reported noticing gambling advertising on TV during sports and racing events at least weekly.
  • Parents were the strongest influence on youth gambling. Young people were more likely to have gambled in the past year if they’d gambled with their parents during childhood and had parents who approved of gambling. A problem-gambling adult in the household when the young person was growing up was also found to uniquely predict problem or at-risk gambling among youth survey respondents.
  • Exposure to gambling advertising in both traditional and digital media and thinking more positively about gambling due to seeing gambling advertisements were associated with gambling participation, intentions and problems. 

  • Studies have established that the level of gambling advertising in Australia is significantly high and often viewed by children. A 2016 study found 136,918 gambling ads on Australian commercial free-to-air TV in 2016 – an average of 374 ads per day. The majority (66%) of gambling ads in 2016 were during the daytime when large numbers of children and young people are known to watch TV.1
  • A study of UK students aged 11 to 16 found that 12% of young people follow gambling companies on social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. It found that 7% of young people were prompted to gamble once they had viewed an ad or sponsorship on social media.2
  • An Australian study of young people aged 12–17 conducted in 2014 indicated that 9% of adolescents who played social casino games and then subsequently engaged in monetary gambling reported they’d been influenced by ads for gambling received through social casino games online.3
  • Australian research has suggested a relationship between exposure to sports betting advertising and the increased normalisation of gambling among young people.4,5
  • A 2012 study of young people aged 12 to 17 indicated that 42% of participants were able to recall at least one gambling brand from watching televised sport in Australia.6 This study also found an “exposure-response” effect, with the intention to bet increasing with increased exposure to this advertising.
  • A 2019 rapid review of qualitative research on youth gambling behaviour highlighted factors influencing behaviour including families (e.g. intergenerational gambling), peers (e.g. gambling with groups), technology (e.g. ease of gambling) and advertising (e.g. prompting a desire to gamble). The review indicated that young people’s perceptions of gambling differ from legal and legislative definitions.7
  1. O’Brien, K. & Iqbal, M. (2019). Extent of, and children and young people’s exposure to, gambling advertising in sport and non-sport TV, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.
  2. (2019). Young People and Gambling Survey 2019: A research study among 11–16 year olds in Great Britain, October, Gambling Commission.
  3. Gainsbury, S. et al. (2015). The Use of Social Media in Gambling, Gambling Research Australia.
  4. Sproston, K. et al. (2015). Marketing of sports betting and racing, Gambling Research Australia, Melbourne.
  5. Li, E., Langham, E., Browne, M. et al. (2018). Gambling and sport: implicit association and explicit intention among underage youth. J Gambl Stud 34, 739–756. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-018-9756-0
  6. Hing, N., Vitartas, P., Lamont, M. & Fink, E. (2014). Adolescent exposure to gambling promotions during televised sport: an exploratory study of links with gambling intentions. International Gambling Studies, 14(3), 374–393.
  7. Wardle, H. (2019). Perceptions, people and place: Findings from a rapid review of qualitative research on youth gambling. Addictive Behaviors, 90, 99–106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.10.008


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