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11 year-olds gambling online, says Gambling Commission

December 12th 2017

About half a million children and young people gamble every week, a Gambling Commission report has revealed.

Half a million children and young people – some as young as 11 – are gambling every week on skin betting websites. This is one of the key findings in today’s annual report issued by the Gambling Commission, the body responsible for regulating gambling and supervising gaming law in Great Britain.

Skin betting lets players gamble, using collectable virtual items as currency. The items – known as skins – change the appearance of a weapon, such as turning a weapon such as a ‘normal‘ pistol or knife into a golden one. Skins can frequently be earned within a game, with some games also enabling players to trade and sell skins. Skins can also be purchased with real money.

Rarer skins attract higher prices, a fact which has led to some sites encouraging players to gamble with their skins for the opportunity to win the more valuable ones, using casino or slot machine type games on third-party websites. Winning skins on such a website could theoretically be sold and turned back into actual money, which the Gambling Commission regards as unlicensed gambling which needs to be cracked down on.

Some 11% of 11 to 16 year-olds said they had bet in this way, with more than a third 36%) having done so in the past seven days.

The Commission’s Chief Executive, Sarah Harrison, said: "Because of these unlicensed skin betting sites, the safeguards that exist are not being applied and we're seeing examples of really young people, 11 and 12-year-olds, who are getting involved in skin betting, not realising that it's gambling.

"At one level they are running up bills perhaps on their parents' Paypal account or credit card, but the wider effect is the introduction and normalisation of this kind of gambling among children and young people."

This year saw the Commission achieve its first prosecution for people for running an unlicensed gambling website connected to a video game. Business partners Craig Douglas (also known under his gaming name Nepenthez) and Dylan Rigby were fined £91,000 and £164,000 respectively after admitting offences under the Gambling Act. They operated a website called FUT Galaxy that was connected to the FIFA football video game and let gamers gamble virtual currency.

Founder and CEO of Parentzone, Vicky Shotbolt, told the BBC: "It's a huge emerging issue that's getting bigger and bigger, but parents aren't even thinking about it. When we talk to people about skin gambling, we normally get a look of complete confusion."