Isabella Ross 

Parents across the community have been urged to sit down with their adolescent children and discuss the dangers of online gambling. In a bid to entice the young ‘Candy Crush’ gaming generation, numerous companies have been advertising free-to-play online gambling apps that mimic video game formats to impressionable youth.

This is an alarming thought when considering just how popular video games and gaming apps have become amongst adolescents. Recently, the World Health Organisation officially recognised gaming addiction disorder as a mental health condition. So to ensure these electronic gaming-machine apps are not available or marketed to anyone under the age of 18, there have been calls for legislative intervention. The potential danger is that children are then susceptible to readily access these free-to-play mobile games, blurring the lines between virtual gambling and reality.

Unfortunately, the realm of gambling has become normalised within our Australian sporting culture. With the classic Friday night football being continuously bombarded with a surplus of ads, promotions and enticements, 75% of kids aged 8-16 years believe that betting on sport is conventional. The fear is that with habits like such being normalised, these kids will be unaware and ill-equipped to manage the potential risks of gambling addiction.

“Research suggests a correlation between non-monetary gambling-themed games played by children and risky real money gambling behaviours that lead to harm,” said Louise Glanville, the CEO of the youth organisation Taking Action For Change.

Online gambling is the fastest growing gambling segment in Australia, growing at 15% per annum. In a 2018 report released by Digital Australia, it was revealed that 97% of our nation’s households with children have at least one device for playing video games. This data, when related to the increasing convergence of gambling and gaming, is enough to cause significant alarm for any concerned parent. The primary concern with this converged platform is that these games normalise betting and will ultimately inflate a teenager’s confidence of winning when presented with a real-life gambling scenario.

“Researchers have presented evidence that playing simulated gambling games contributes to high-risk real money gambling, supporting their argument that promotion of these gaming apps to children should be banned,” said Ms Glanville.

We can only hope that further legislation is enacted to ensure this new breed of online gambling will not target, and in turn, not harm our kids.