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How can I talk to my child about gambling?

Having a conversation with a trusted adult can help a young person to understand the consequences of gambling.

Most gambling is illegal for anyone under 18. You can buy lottery tickets and scratchcards at 16, and some machines can be played at any age. The law is to protect young people from the risks of gambling.

Talking about the risks

When we talk about the risks of gambling, losing money and getting into debt can be the first thing that comes to mind.

However, there are other consequences which can shape habits in later life, such as:

  • experiencing a ‘high’ from winning
  • feeling absorbed or lost in the experience
  • feeling peer pressure to gamble in social situations.

How should I talk about gambling?

A good conversation will:

  • create a safe space and lets the young person know that they can ask questions without feeling judged
  • be open and honest. Clear communication can help bring unnoticed habits or online behaviour into the open
  • show you as leading by example. Think about if your own gambling habits might be normalising gambling and ask about their perceptions
  • be reassuring, if the young person is struggling with gambling, or other forms of addiction, let them know they're not alone.

Find out more about support available to help young people struggling with gambling.

When’s the right time to bring the subject up?

A good time to bring up problem gambling might be when talking you’re talking about:

  • drugs or alcohol
  • chance and probability
  • when you see gambling advertising
  • when the risks of gambling are talked about in the media.

The conversation shouldn’t be a one-off. Keep bringing the topic up so the young person understands it’s ok to discuss gambling openly.

Conversation starters

The following prompts can help you to have an open conversation about responsible gambling.

When you're watching sport together

Have you noticed the betting ads? Does it seem harmless, or easy to win?

When you're talking about gaming apps or social gaming

Do you think certain games or features in the game you're playing are gaming or gambling? What's the difference and do you think it matters?

During major sports events, like the start of the football season or before the Grand National

Do you think people feel they have to gamble to enjoy the match or the races?

When you're talking about spending time online

Do they think their friends take risks or gamble to fit in? Do they feel pressure to do these kinds of activities when playing games or using social media?

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Tips for parents: children and online gaming
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Where can I get help for a young person's gambling?