What are young South Australians playing online? The lines between games and gambling are blurring…

Problem gambling for adults is widely recognised but it is increasingly becoming an area of concern for young people. Research suggests that one in five adults who are problem gamblers started gambling before they were 18.

A recent study of 1,287 South Australian young people aged 12 to 17 years old found that a significant proportion of young people had engaged in a range of simulated gambling activities via internet gambling sites, social media, smartphone applications and video games.[1]

This research shows that:

  • Almost one third of teenagers have tried one or more types of simulated gambling online
  • Around one in 10 teenagers has tried gambling games on Facebook such as poker
  • One in 20 teenagers has tried simulated gambling apps on a smartphone
  • One in 10 teenagers has played simulated electronic slot machine games

Lending weight to these findings is a Gambling Research Australia 2011 report that found in the 12 months preceding the study that:

  • 3.6% of 10-14 year olds were classified as problem gamblers
  • 8.2% of 10-14 year olds were classified as ‘at risk’
  • 2.7% of 15-17 year olds were classified as problem gamblers
  • 8.4% of 15-17 year olds were classified as ‘at risk’ [2]

While current research has not demonstrated that engaging in simulated gambling causes someone to be a problem gambler, experts have identified there is evidence of a link between exposure of some children to simulated gambling and the development of problem gambling in adulthood.

Young people who become problem gamblers are also at risk in other areas. International studies have identified a link between adolescent gambling and other risk-taking activities, with broader problems in social development and educational performance.