The number of children with gambling problems has quadrupled in the past two years, according to a new report.
In a report published by the Gambling Commission, experts have warned that the number of children with gambling problems is rising at a worrying speed.
Figures show that 14 per cent of 11-16 year olds in Britain gambled in the previous week, with the number of problem gamblers in that age bracket now reaching 55,000.
The audit also found that 70,000 youngsters were at risk and 450,000 children bet regularly, which is the equivalent to one in seven children aged 11 to 16.
More children say they have placed bets in the past week than drunk alcohol, smoked or taken drugs.
They warned: ‘There’s no doubt that these are figures that should make people sit up and pay attention and recognise that there is no form of gambling that is risk free.
‘We know that young people’s early experiences of gambling can shape their future relationships with it. But whilst discussions about children and gambling might conjure up images of groups of kids being allowed to sneak into the local bookies or sitting alone on their iPads gambling on an online casino, our latest research paints a more complex, and perhaps challenging, picture.’
The report revealed that the most common gambling preferences of young people are in informal environments, out of sight of regulation, such as private bets between friends or playing cards with their mates for money.
They are also gambling where parents are or are expected to be present – scratch cards from the supermarket or playing fruit machines in pubs.
Experts are now urging that parents as well as teachers work alongside businesses and authorities to protect children from the dangers of gambling.
The report added: ‘Protecting children from harm requires a joined-up approach: a strong, effective regulator; parents and teachers who understand and talk about the risks that can come from gambling; businesses, both in the gambling industry and outside, that act responsibly. It is by working hand in hand that we can help to keep our kids safe.
Lord Chadlington, former chairman of Action on Addiction, said the current situation demands immediate action.
He told the Mail Online: ‘We are on the brink of a gambling epidemic in this country.
‘I am calling for a stop to gambling advertising on live sporting events on television, and these numbers reinforce the need for urgent action.
‘Italy, which has some 20 per cent fewer problem gamblers than the UK, is banning it. Why is this bombardment of gambling advertising on television continuing in the UK?’