Research also suggests that nearly half a million children are exposed to parental play at low risk levels. Nine out of 10 adults do not engage in risky gambling at all.

Dr. Suomi said previous research suggests that children whose parents engage in moderate-risk gambling experience the same types of harms as children whose parents are problem gamblers, and the difference is in the severity.

Harms include financial stress, psychological distress, and damaged relationships, as well as child protection issues such as neglect, poor diet, and various forms of family violence, including child abuse.

“There is a fairly high correlation between family violence and gambling, such that these families face high levels of conflict and children witness violence between parents and are also more likely to experience abuse” , said Dr. Suomi.

“There is also an intergenerational transmission of problem gambling – children of problem gamblers are at increased risk of becoming gamblers themselves.”

Dr Suomi said the article published in Addictive behaviors did not examine the method of play, but other research has shown that parents tend to favor online play via their smartphones, although there is also evidence that some parents leave their children at home to play in places with slot machines.


A study published last year by Gambling Research Australia shows that problem gambling has doubled over the past decade, despite fewer people gambling overall, meaning the industry is making more money with a smaller group of people.

This trend is associated with the growing popularity of online gambling, with online gamblers being twice as likely to be at risk for gambling problems as other gamblers.

There is evidence that online gambling has become a problem during the COVID-19 pandemic, although some people who gamble in person have reduced their activities with the closure of sites under lockdown. Dr Suomi said more evidence on the impact of COVID on gambling would come from the 2022 HILDA survey.

Jacqueline Small, a pediatrician and president-elect of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, said the research raises important issues about children’s health and wellbeing that should be considered in health and social policy.

The college has a Kids COVID Catch Up campaign, calling on the federal government to appoint a national chief pediatrician and set up a children’s recovery task force.

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