A North Wales politician has called for action to address the issue of gateway gambling among young people.

Speaking at the 2019 Wales Youth Forum on Gambling, Clwyd West Assembly Member Darren Millar called for “concerted action to address gateway gambling in the form of games, and traditional gambling in the bookmakers, amongst young people”.

Mr Miller, who sponsored the event and has supported it since its inception in 2015, spoke of the need to address the worrying fact that around 25,000 11 to 16 year olds are classified as problem gamblers years before it’s even legal for them to place a bet, and expressed concern that the prevalence of problem gambling is higher among this age group than the adult population as a whole.

He said: “Excessive gambling is a public health crisis that rarely gets the attention and resources that it needs and deserves.

“It is a problem that ruins the lives of individuals and families across the country and has devastating effects on society and it cannot be right that the seeds of problem gambling are planted at such a young age for so many of our children and young people.

“There is a new challenge we face when it comes to protecting our children from the harm of problem gambling and it doesn’t involve logging in on a betting website or walking into the bookies; it only requires a games console or app on a mobile phone.

“Some of the most popular games among children, including Fifa, Star Wars and Fortnite, encourage players to risk real and significant amounts of money in the hope of acquiring a digital item with no real value, often with the odds of getting that item at 0.01 per cent.

“Gaming companies manipulate those playing these games, encouraging them to throw their money away on what has become a digital roulette wheel sitting in the homes and bedrooms of children and teenagers across the country.

“A survey from the Gambling Commission revealed that one in three 11 to 16-year-olds have gambled in this way at some point.

“With children as young as three years old being able to play these games, it is little wonder that a significant number of young people are growing up with gambling being normalised as a part of everyday life.

“It is time for concerted action to address gateway gambling in the form of games, and traditional gambling in the bookmakers amongst young people.

Darren recognised that some progress is being made when it comes to gambling and spoke of the great work being done by the Cross Party Group on Problem Gambling in the National Assembly for Wales, and the All Party Group in Westminster, but said more needs to be done.

He said: “Here in Wales we are continuing to encourage the Welsh Government to use the powers at its disposal to make more progress on prevention, education and the treatment of gambling addiction, and with further devolved powers we could do even more. But until they are available to us we will continue to work across the political spectrum because this issue is not about party politics, it’s about tackling a public health enemy and ensuring that the next generation is not bought up in a world where gambling is a normal everyday activity.”