Gambling and social gambling: An exploratory study of young people’s perceptions and behaviour


Background and aims: Gambling-type games that do not involve the spending of money (e.g., social and (demo/demonstration) gambling games, gambling-like activities within video games) have been accused in both the legal and psychological literature of increasing minors’ propensity towards prohibited forms of gambling thus prompting calls for gambling regulation to capture address such games and subject them to age restrictions. However, there is still a shortage of empirical data that considers how young people experience monetary and non-monetary gambling, and whether they are sufficiently aware of the differences. Methods: Data was collected from 23 qualitative focus groups carried out with 200 young people aged between 14 and 19 years old in schools based in London and Kent. As the study was exploratory in nature, thematic analysis was adopted in order to capture how pupils categorise, construct, and react to gambling-like activities in comparison to monetary forms of gambling without the constrains of a predetermined theoretical framework. Results: Despite many similarities, substantial differences between monetary and non-monetary forms of gambling were revealed in terms of pupils’ engagement, motivating factors, strengths, intensity, and associated emotions. Pupils made clear differentiation between non-monetary and monetary forms of gambling and no inherent transition of interest from one to the other was observed among participants. Only limited evidence emerged of (demo) games being used as a practice ground for future gambling. Conclusion: For the present sample, non-monetary forms of gambling presented a different proposition to the real-money gambling with no inherent overlap between the two. For some the softer form minimised the temptation to try other forms of gambling that they were not legally allowed to engage in, but (demo) games may attract those who already want to gamble. Policy implications: Regulators must recognise and balance these two conflicting aspects.

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