Gambling and online gambling

The ESPAD results reveal that gambling for money has become a popular activity among school students. In 2019, ESPAD was the first study to provide European estimates of the prevalence excessive and problem gambling behaviour among adolescents.

The ESPAD results show that gambling for money has become quite popular among adolescents in Europe, with 22% of respondents in 2019 reporting gambling on at least one game in the past 12 months. An estimated 7.9% of students had gambled for money online in that period.

The predominant gambling activity is lotteries, followed by sport betting or animal races, cards or dice playing, and slot machines.

Cross-country comparisons reveal important variations in the reported levels of past-year gambling, and that in all countries considerably more boys than girls engage in gambling for money.

To estimate for the first time in Europe the extent of excessive and problem gambling behaviour among adolescent students, the 2019 ESPAD study introduced the Consumption Screen for Problem Gambling – CSPG and the Lie/Bet screening tests in the core part of the questionnaire of all participating countries.

The results revealed that in 2019, on average, 15 % of students who gambled in the last 12 months met the criteria for excessive gambling, which corresponds to 3.8 % of all students participating in the survey.
Furthermore, 5% of students who had gambled in the last 12 months met the criteria for problem gambling, corresponding to a prevalence of 1.4 % in the total student population.

Overall, the ESPAD results indicate that the prevalence of gambling participation and the prevalence of excessive and/or problem gambling are not necessarily correlated.

The study also revealed the association of excessive gambling with an increased use of legal and illegal substances.

The high degree of normalisation of gambling in societies and the culture of gambling within the family environment, coupled by the increased availability of gambling opportunities, have been recognised as important drivers of gambling onset and youth progression into problem gambling.

The ESPAD results confirm that a high proportion of youth start gambling at an early age, suggesting that adolescents are a privileged target group for prevention activities. The association found between gambling engagement and substance use suggests a potential effectiveness of prevention and intervention programmes targeted at all kinds of risk behaviours, focusing on the most prevalent risk activities.


Most recent scientific literature on gambling based on ESPAD data:

Calado, F., Alexandre, J. and Griffiths, M. D. (2017), ‘Prevalence of adolescent problem gambling: a systematic review of recent research’, Journal of Gambling Studies 33 (2), pp. 397-424, doi:10.1007/ s10899-016-9627-5.

Molinaro, S., Benedetti, E., Scalese, M., Bastiani, L., Fortunato, L., Cerrai, S., Canale, N., et al. (2018), ‘Prevalence of youth gambling and potential influence of substance use and other risk factors throughout 33 European countries: first results from the 2015 ESPAD study’, Addiction 113 (10), pp. 1862-1873, doi:10.1111/add.14275.

Špolc, M., Mravčík, V., Drbohlavová, B. and Chomynová, P. (2019), ‘Problem gambling among Czech adolescents: an exploration of its relationship to early initiation of tobacco smoking’, Journal of Behavioral Addictions 8 (1), pp. 114-122, doi:10.1556/2006.8.2019.04.

Vieno, A., Canale, N., Potente, R., Scalese, M., Griffiths, M. D. and Molinaro, S. (2018), ‘The multiplicative effect of combining alcohol with energy drinks on adolescent gambling’, Addictive Behaviors 82, pp. 7-13, doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.01.034.