Online gambling is becoming a rising worry for young people in the UK, especially teenagers, who are falling into addictive patterns. Take James Smith, a 15-year-old who, after playing online casino games with a friend last year, got hooked on virtual gambling.
Teenage Online Gambling Addiction in the UK:
James, like many teens, is drawn to popular online games like roulette and virtual snail racing. The ease of access to online platforms has only made the issue worse.
Law enforcement in the UK is sounding the alarm about online gambling businesses actively targeting youth. With a surge in gambling sites, these platforms see young individuals as potential customers. A cyber unit officer from North London Police says, As the number of gambling sites increases, these businesses actively target young people, viewing them as a lucrative market.
The UK Problem Gambling Agency (UKPGA) reports a concerning trend, with a significant number of students seeking medical treatment for gambling addiction between 2017 and 2021. In a recent student survey, about 30% admitted to engaging in online gambling in the past three months, with 5.5% identified as at risk of addiction.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the problem, as students spent more time online during lockdowns. A school counselor in London notes, “Students have had greater accessibility to gambling sites since they have been highly online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social media plays a big role in spreading these activities. A police officer from the Westminster Police Department explains that students have spent more time on social media since the pandemic, and these illegal gambling sites are promoted through social media pages.
Making matters worse, mobile financial services make it easy for teens to engage in online gambling. Some even publicly display their bank account details on social media, making it easier for them to participate.
Illegal gambling sites use various channels for promotion. A spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police reveals that these gambling sites often use illegal webtoons and explicit content websites as a means to advertise.
Efforts by regulatory bodies to shut down such websites have proven challenging. Operators use virtual private networks (VPNs) to evade authorities, frequently changing website addresses to bypass restrictions.
Concerns are growing, as some teens may not even realize the risks of online gambling. A spokesperson from the UKPGA notes, “Students who come for counseling are mostly at risk of having major financial issues or are about to be criminally punished.
Parents are urged to be vigilant. A school police officer advises, There are quite a few parents who learn of their children’s online gambling only after the authorities launch investigations into their children and are shocked.
As researchers delve into this issue, early findings indicate that online gambling may lead to more severe consequences for teens compared to traditional forms of gambling. Addressing these concerns promptly is crucial to preventing further harm to the well-being of young individuals in the UK.