European Teens Gambling Online at Alarming Rate, New Study Concludes

Posted on: September 20, 2016, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: September 20, 2016, 11:32h.

European teens gambling online eSports social gaming
A new study says European teens are increasingly placing money on gambling endeavors online. (Image: Norman Hermant/ABC News)

European teens have found a new vice, and it comes in the form of online gambling.

According to a new study published by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), teens in Europe are smoking and drinking alcohol at lower rates, but online gambling frequency is on the rise.

ESPAD conducts and releases its research every four years, and new for 2015’s investigation was the realization that internet gambling platforms have successfully targeted Europe’s youth.

A total of 96,043 school students between the ages of 15 and 16 were polled across 35 countries in Europe.

When asked if they had gambled online for real money in the past year, a shocking 23 percent of male respondents, or more than one in five, answered yes. Just five percent of females said they too had gambled online.

Another startling finding is that 12 percent of boys say they frequently gamble on the internet.

“Measures to prevent adolescents from developing problems associated with gambling, such as debts, psychological deficits and social disadvantages, are of ‘high priority,'” the ESPAD concluded.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Not all of the ESPAD results were detrimental to European society.

Smoking prevalence is on the decline in Europe, as just 21 percent of respondents said they were smokers, and only four percent said they started smoking before the age of 13. That’s a significant decrease in both categories from four years earlier.

Alcohol use is also fading, as 47 percent said they had consumed some sort of alcohol over the last 30 days, down from 56 percent in 1995. But “heavy episodic drinking” remains unchanged and a critical concern to Europe’s health.

Illicit drug use also didn’t rise. However, it also didn’t fall.

ESPAD’s greatest new concern is online wagering.

“This latest report has extended the scope of the survey to include not only new drugs but also new and potentially addictive behaviors that are raising public concern, such as excessive internet use, gaming and gambling,” European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Director Alexis Goosdeel said.

Prevention and Education

Gambling on the internet and through mobile channels is much more widely accepted in many parts of Europe than in the United States.

That’s especially true in the United Kingdom where soccer fans have long placed wagers on matches through land-based and online facilitators. But the new crop of online bettors isn’t solely focused on sports or traditional casino offerings.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has recognized the growing problem of underage users accessing online gambling devices.

The UKGC is focusing on the emergence of both eSports and social gaming, two developing formats that are attracting large audiences of underage players. Though real-money gambling isn’t legal in video games in the UK, in-game currencies are being sold and purchased on third-party exchanges.

ESports fantasy contests are also on the rise through platforms like AlphaDraft and Vulcun.

“We are . . . concerned about betting on eSports,” UKGC General Counsel Neil McArthur said in August. “Like any other market, we expect operators offering markets on eSports to manage the risks, including the significant risk that children and young people may try to bet on such events.”

Those concerns among the UKGC should only increase following the ESPAD study.