Children as young as twelve should be taught how to gamble “safely”, according to controversial proposals which have been welcomed by the Labour Party.
Critics have branded the proposals by GamCare, a gambling addiction charity, as “grotesque” and warned that they would lead to more problem gambling.
But Labour has welcomed the proposals claiming that they would help prepare children for the “adult world”.
The Times has accused GamCare of wanting school pupils to be taught that studying the form of horses, dogs and sports teams can improve the odds of winning a bet.
The paper also accused the charity, which receives around £3 million a year from the gaming industry, of wanting pupils to play the dice game craps, learn about fruit machines and how to calculate betting odds.
But a spokesman for the charity said: “GamCare has been seriously misquoted on the important issue of educating young people about risk and gambling.”
He added that GamCare are asking the Department for Education “to include information about risk, probability and randomness in the curriculum and to de-bunk some of the superstitions which abound – such as the belief that it is possible to detect patterns which show when a slot machine will pay out.
“We are not planning to teach young people how to have a winning poker hand, or how to play the odds and win on the horses – but to give them the information to know that the chances are that they won’t win, and gambling is not a way to make easy money.”
Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary, welcomed the proposals, saying: “This is something that shouldn’t be left to chance.
“With the rise of online gambling, there is clearly a need for children and young people to be given good advice.
“It is right that, just like drug and alcohol addiction, teenagers and children are given information to prepare them for the adult world.”
But Melanie Phillips, a commentator for the Daily Mail, said: “There are already an estimated 100,000 problem gamblers under the age of 18, including some 60,000 12- to 15-year-olds, a prevalence rate of two per cent, more than twice that for adults.
“GamCare’s proposal would cause even more children to start gambling.”
She warned: “Some of the most profound coarsening of our culture has come about through a kind of ratchet effect.
“First the law is liberalised. Then people get worried about the damage that’s being done as a result.
“But then, rather than undoing the liberal attitudes which are causing the problem, people try to pretend this damage can be corrected by picking up the pieces once it has been done.”
GamCare argued strongly for the addition of gambling to the curriculum, in its response to the Government’s review of personal, social, health and economics education.
A spokesman for the charity said: “Gambling is becoming more mainstream. If there are going to be risky activities, young people should be informed about how to do this safely.”