Pitfalls for underage gamblers not spoken about enough

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Pitfalls for underage gamblers are not spoken about enough

Gambling affects families in more ways than are always immediately obvious. After over twenty years in this field, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of gambling on children. Sure, I've seen people lose their livelihoods and become unable to feed or clothe their children because of gambling harm. But worse than that, I've seen children themselves become ensnared by gambling harm. The catalyst is invariably technology.

It's rare in 2021 to see a teenager without a smartphone. The smartphone has become an ingrained aspect of our lives in a modern world, and though it can make our lives easier, it can also be used as a tool for ethically questionable practices. One such example is children under the age of 18 being shown gambling ads on their phones after watching sporting events, such as the AFL Grand Final. Innocent as that might sound, I've watched those ads become the genesis of downward spiral that sees an otherwise healthy teenager lose their parents' home to gambling. Or worse, end up behind bars. Online gambling accounts are all too easy for the average tech-savvy teenager to setup or access.

I've spoken to many whose children end up in these dire circumstances and something they all lament is how much of the public discussion around the dangers of gambling is geared towards traditional gambling methods - otherwise known as terrestrial gambling. In their view, the real problem lies with online gambling and how easy it is for young people to access - particularly without the knowledge of their parents.

Another area of worry for parents when it comes to online gambling is the way it is being surreptitiously built into the video gaming experience. Platforms such as Steam not only offer easy access to gambling games such as Poker, they also facilitate things like loot box purchases - a process through which users can pay to receive randomized items for use in games. This raises the question, what is 'gambling' and what is 'gaming'?

In my view, gambling and gaming are two different activities, although they're not always mutually exclusive. At this time, the terms are too interchangeable in public discourse. If a teenager sits down to play a video game, to them that's 'gaming'. But that's a decisively different activity to the person harmed by gambling who is at the local pub pouring their whole week's wages into a poker machine in the 'gaming' area. I believe that defining these terms publicly, or at the very least differentiating the terms, would go a long way to moving the whole process forward for everyone. If the classifications were clearer, more effective and useful public policy could follow.

Gambling as a serious problem isn't new. But the pitfalls that exist for those under the age of 18, especially in a digital world, aren't spoken about enough. GamBlock® sees this as an issue that needs to be addressed quickly and effectively, for the good of society at large. That's exactly what our software aims to do. Where other products rely on aspects such as VPN technology to block access to gambling online, our software uses a far more advanced and ever-evolving methodology. It is not simply a filter and cannot be subverted. It identifies threats such as the average level of tech knowledge a teenager has, and the subliminal way gambling is built into games, and is constantly being updated to protect users from them.

David Warr

Creator of GamBlock®

GamBlock® believes responsible gambling and harm reduction suits the majority of people. GamBlock® is not anti-gambling – it supports responsible gambling and harm reduction for those it can help.