How gambling and gaming impacts children

You may be concerned about the increasing presence of gambling in the lives of young people, whether it’s through betting advertising, media coverage, or online games. Gambling can be a fun activity, but it can also cause serious harm. That’s why it’s important to be aware of gambling as an issue that may impact young people you know – now or in the future.

Click on the headings below to find out more.

Many young people gamble - and some have gambling problems

Gambling is common among young people. A survey we conducted in 2020 found that almost 30% of young people aged 12-17 had gambled in the past year, and that they first gamble at age 11 or 12.1 Around 3-4% of 12-17 year old’s have a gambling problem or are at-risk1 - that’s one in every classroom.

Parents are a major influence on young people gambling

As a parent, grandparent or other adult, what you say and do can have an impact. Young people are more likely to have gambled in the last year if they had gambled with their parents during childhood and had parents who approved of gambling.

If you’re concerned about your child, the most important step you can take is not to help them to gamble. You may be surprised to know that young people most commonly gamble with their parents, grandparents and other adult relatives, and the most common way they access online gambling is by using a parent’s account – with their permission.1

Gaming and gambling are increasingly connected

Gaming is front of mind for many parents, but the links between gaming and gambling may not be. Around 40% of young people play games with gambling components.1

Games with gambling components are very common. They include:

  • Social casino games – these games look and function like popular games in a casino, but instead of playing for money, you earn points or in-game currencies like coins or jewels. Some games encourage players to spend more to unlock special features or to earn more points or in-game currencies
  • Virtual goods – these are items that are bought or earnt in games, like weapons or character upgrades. Virtual goods can be traded within the game and even traded online for real money
  • Loot boxes – these are rewards you can win or buy during a game. What you receive in a loot box is the luck of the draw. There is no skill involved, which make them a lot like gambling. And just like gambling, the cost can add up when they are bought with real money.

You can keep your child safe when gaming

Parents play an important role in keeping their children safe when they play video games. You can:

  • Have them play in the open – to create a safer environment for your kids, get them to play somewhere where you can see what’s on the screen
  • Activate parental controls – there are settings and controls you can use to limit content and spending on in-game purchases
  • Play the game yourself – this way you can see if there are any signs of simulated gambling
  • Talk to your children about gaming and gambling – by getting more involved in the games your kids play you can also talk to them about the risks associated with gambling.

Talk to your child about gambling

Talking about gambling may seem difficult, but it’s an important conversation to have.

Encourage them to think critically about gambling and to make informed decisions. Approach the topic indirectly. Asking questions about whether they’ve seen gambling promotion, or what they think about loot boxes can be a smooth way to introduce the subject, without making them defensive.

Ask them questions when you see gambling in the news or in advertising. Questions like: “Do you know the odds of winning on the pokies?” or “Do you know how much money is spent on sports betting advertising?” can be a tactful way to start a conversation. It also gives you an opportunity to share facts about the real chances of winning.

Worried about gambling advertising?

Four out of 5 people in NSW are concerned that children and young people are being exposed to too much gambling advertising.2

Our research shows that young people are frequently exposed to gambling advertising on TV during sports and racing events, with many young people seeing these advertisements on a weekly basis.1

Young people also see gambling advertising through:

  • Social media
  • Online ads and promotions
  • Online gambling sites and apps
  • Billboards and other public advertising
  • Sports betting sponsorships on uniforms and sports grounds.

Advertising works. Exposure to gambling advertising and thinking more positively about gambling due to advertising, were associated with young people’s gambling participation, intentions and problems.1

You can limit their exposure to gambling advertising by:

  • Monitoring what they watch and play – it’s important to understand what your children are watching and playing. You may want to set boundaries on what they can and can’t watch.
  • Adjusting online security and advertising settings – Internet browsers and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram let you adjust online security and advertising settings.
  • Using blocking software – Adblock Plus, AdGuard and other similar software can help you block and limit the amount of gambling advertising your children will see.
  • Using parental controls – Parental controls are software tools that help monitor and limit what your children see and do online. They can be used on computers, mobile phones, tablets, televisions, gaming consoles, streaming services and Internet web browsers. To learn more, visit the eSafety website.

There are strict rules about gambling advertising on television, radio and online. These are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Find out what is allowed and what is not allowed under these rules.

More information

For more information about young people and gambling in NSW.

To find out what we are doing about gambling advertising in sport.

Other resources

Gambling Help NSW

Free and confidential counselling, including legal assistance and financial counselling, can be accessed by phone, online and face to face. Gambling Help services are available for friends and families, as well as those struggling with a gambling issue, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

1800 858 858

Kids Helpline

A free counselling service (telephone, web and email) for young people aged 5-25.

1800 55 1800

www.kidshelpline.com.au

headspace

Support and advice for young people aged 12-25 going through a tough time, with centres across regional and metropolitan Australia.

www.headspace.org.au

ReachOut

An online youth mental health service for under 25s, where you will find fact sheets, stories, videos, guides, tools, apps and a community forum.

au.reachout.com

E-safety

For more information about online gaming, visit the eSafety website: www.esafety.gov.au/parents/big-issues/gaming

1. Hing, N., Russell, A. M. T., King, D., Rockloff, M., Browne, M., Greer, N., Newall, P., Sproston, K., Chen, L., & Coughlin, S. (2020). NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020. Sydney: NSW Responsible Gambling Fund.

2. 2020 Community awareness and attitudes survey. Ipsos August 2020