London: Children are twice as likely to be problem gamblers as adults, a survey has revealed.
The charity Gamcare estimates that around 60,000 children aged between 12 and 15 are addicted to gambling, the equivalent of one in 50.
Among the over-16s, there are an estimated 450,000 people with a gambling addiction, a proportion of less than one in 100.
The figures suggest that gambling could become an even bigger issue in the future, as the problem teenagers progress into adulthood. Many children get hooked on gambling by spending their pocket money on fruit machines in service stations and amusement arcades.
Playground bets on football results or marbles could also be responsible for igniting an interest among vulnerable children. Lax checks on age in high street betting shops and online sites fuel the problem by allowing young teenagers to place bets with ease.
A spokesman for Gamcare said: "The clinical evidence suggests that among adults some 0.9 per cent are problem gamblers, while among children aged between 12 and 15 the proportion is around 2 per cent.
"If gamblers start young there is a risk that this could continue into adult life."
The charity said: "Many problem gamblers have experienced some form of trauma, abuse or loss in their past, leaving them with a deficiency in expressing and containing their feelings.
"By the time they seek help this group has usually been gambling for many years, starting from an early age; they may have had a significant figure in their life who gambled."