Children and gambling: Attitudes, behaviour, harm prevention and regulatory responses

Abstract

Gambling constitutes an inherent part of British cultural landscape but due to its potential to cause significant detriments it remains controversial. The Gambling Act 2005 liberalised the UK gambling industry and created an environment where commercial gambling, although regulated, can be offered within a relatively free market setting and its consumption can be stimulated by advertising. The task of the law is to provide a framework where the need for customer choice, a flourishing market, and the respect for private liberties can be adequately balanced with the duty to protect vulnerable individuals such as minors. The Gambling Act has been positioned as containing sufficient protective measures to prevent minors from being harmed by gambling but there is still a relative paucity of research that focuses specifically on how this regime affects this age group. This thesis fills some of the gaps by analysing whether the existing legal and regulatory framework reconciled the conflicting priorities adequately. It uniquely combines legal doctrinal analysis with empirical evidence collected from a sample of British pupils to expose that the liberalisation of gambling has brought severe limitations on protecting minors that are not sufficiently counterbalanced by existing measures. This thesis demonstrates that the legal definition of prohibited gambling does not incorporate all activities that may lead to gambling-related harm. While the age verification measures adopted by online gambling providers appear to be successful, young people continue to have easy access to gambling in land-based venues and are exposed to significant volumes of gambling advertising that appeals to them but these factors are not sufficiently compensated by any holistic regulatory strategy. However, the thesis indicates that the correlation between fun and real gambling games should not be attributed to overlaps in minor’s motivations for engaging in either form or to minors’ lack of accurate differentiation between them.

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