Gambling in children and adolescents

Br Med Bull. 2020 Dec 15;136(1):21-29. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldaa027.


Introduction: Children are susceptible to problems with gambling because of developmental and cognitive immaturities, as well as a sensitivity to peer pressure and marketing.

Sources of data: This review uses recent UK data from the Gambling Commission and from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, and evidence from recent reviews of gambling in children and adolescents.

Areas of agreement: The prevalence of gambling in children worldwide and in the UK is stable, having generally decreased since 2013. Online gambling is increasing in children and young people. A small minority of adolescents who gamble develop a gambling disorder. Adolescents who have problems with gambling tend to have lower self-esteem and a history of hyperactivity and impulsivity, are more likely to have parents who gamble, report less parental supervision and to use more alcohol than their peers.

Areas of controversy: Children's access to slot machines, the relationship between gaming and gambling, and social media advertizing of gambling targeting children.

Growing points: An increase in online gambling and in-play sports betting by adolescents and the use of skins betting in video gaming.Areas timely for developing research: impact on young people of betting on e-gaming. How best to protect children from early exposure to gambling in the current internet age.

Implications for clinicians: Need to be aware of the growing and complex phenomenon of gaming and gambling, and implications for the mental health of children and adolescents. The effective management of gambling disorders in children and adolescents requires close working with families.

Keywords: ALSPAC; addiction; adolescents; children; gambling; gaming; problem gambling; young people.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Gambling* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Prevalence
  • Sports*