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Do seaside arcades encourage children to gamble?

Despite the numbers of children who play these games, 51 percent of respondents said they do not agree with this.

Seaside resort in Cornwall, UK. Image © Tim Sandle
Seaside resort in Cornwall, UK. Image © Tim Sandle

New research reveals that 70percent of the UK population think entertainment arcades encourage children to gamble from a young age. At the same time there remains little appetite for them to be banned.

This is based on ID Crypt Global research, drawn from a survey of 1,046 members of the UK population. The survey enquiring about national sentiment towards the relationship between gambling and game arcades, such as those commonly found in seaside towns, which are formally known as family entertainment centres.

The results show that the vast majority have visited and enjoyed such arcades during their childhoods, with 81 percent of respondents saying they paid them a visit in their youth.

Despite this widespread love for gaming arcades, the number of active locations in Great Britain currently stands at its lowest point in the last decade. The latest data (2022) shows 151 active family entertainment centres across the nation. This represents an annual decline of 22 percent and a huge drop of 61 percent since the decade high point of 2014 when Britain had a total of 389 arcades. This is representative of the decline of many seaside resorts and the unfashionable nature of UK beach vacations.

Are these kinds of arcades a force for good? Most do not. 73 percent believe that arcade games such as coin pushers and claw grabs are ‘rigged’ so that nobody ever really wins.

Many have also raised the link between arcades and people gambling from a young age. Since most arcade machines do not pay out large cash prizes, many do not regard arcade games as gambling in the accepted sense. As such, children are allowed to play them.

Despite the numbers of children who play these games, 51 percent of respondents said they do not agree with this and think these machines should indeed be classed as gambling.

Games such as coin pushers and claw grabs are known to use similar addictive features as those used by casinos to hook gamblers, such as bright lights, quirky sounds, and intermittent rewards. When asked whether they think this encourages gambling from a young age, 67 percent of people say yes.

However, despite this majority belief, only 8 percent think arcade games should be banned altogether, and just 18 percent think they should be limited to those aged 18 and over.

CEO and Founder of ID Crypt Global, Lauren Wilson-Smith tells Digital Journal: “Seaside arcades are an iconic feature of the great British seaside and many will be sad to see that the number of operational premises is on the decline. But is this decline a bad thing? There’s no doubt that games such as coin pushers and claw grabs utilise many of the same tactics used to hook gamblers in adult gambling establishments.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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