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Teenagers and gambling – the facts

They're under 18, so they don't gamble – right?

Up to 80 per cent of 13–17 year olds gamble, according to Australian research. This includes gambling with friends, playing lottery tickets, raffles and sweeps.

Despite age checks in venues and online, teens also gamble on the pokies, racing and sports betting, with 12.2 per cent of 12–17 year olds having placed a bet or gambled for money or prizes on the internet.

Gambling is changing the way young people think about sport. Commentators often talk about the odds instead of key information like player form and team injuries, so it’s not surprising when we hear teenagers follow suit. And when they see their sporting heroes endorse betting agencies, who could blame them for thinking gambling is a normal part of enjoying sport, when really it’s an unnecessary extra that should be approached with caution.

Teenagers are reportedly five times more likely than adults to experience gambling-related harm.

So it's important to talk to them about gambling sooner rather than later. And remember you don't need to be an expert on the topic to start a conversation.

Key facts

  • 75 per cent of kids aged 8–16 who watch sport think betting on it is normal
  • 75 per cent of kids aged 8–16 who watch sport can name one or more sports betting companies, and 25 per cent can name four or more
  • up to 25 per cent of young people who watch sport have participated in sports betting
  • one in five adults with a gambling problem started gambling before 18 years of age.

Learn more about gambling research and young people.

Gaming or gambling?

Thousands of free apps and video games have gambling-type characteristics and telling the difference between gaming and gambling is difficult.

Many of these apps and games use inflated odds, giving players the impression that winning is just as easy in the real world. There's also advertising on the apps and games that lead to actual gambling sites, creating an easy pathway to real gambling.

Australian research shows teens playing these apps may:

  • think gambling is a normal everyday activity
  • be more inclined to take up gambling
  • be more confident about winning due to false beliefs about gambling odds.

Even though a player can’t win real money from these apps, they can spend real money on in-app purchases to boost their chances in the game. These often cost only a few dollars but a player can rack up the expenses.

Three ways to reduce exposure to gambling

  1. Consider installing a filter on home computers and tablets to block gambling websites. A Google search for ‘parental filters’ will list available programs and reviews. Examples include cyberpatrol.com and gamblock.com.
  2. Encourage teens to have interests that don’t involve digital devices and consider limiting screen time.
  3. Ask them to use computers, phones or tablets in the family areas so you can see what they’re viewing.

When setting boundaries around gambling content, talk with your teens. They may not agree but at least they'll know where you stand and why it’s important.

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