Two men who used their gaming website to draw children into gambling have been heavily fined in what is believed to be a legal first.
Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas both pleaded guilty to advertising unlawful gambling on their YouTube gaming site. Rigby was fined £174,000 and Douglas £91,000.
The prosecution was brought by the UK Gambling Commission which described the effect on children of online gambling as “horrific” and “serious”.
The website drew children into ‘skin betting’, in which players have the option of gambling with virtual goods they have bought online.
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said: “This was one of the most serious cases that has been investigated and prosecuted by the Commission.”
“Its gravity is reflected in the significant financial penalties imposed by the Judge”, she added.
The court was told of a case involving a 14-year-old boy who used the website and lost £586 in just one day.
It was also given evidence from Douglas’ YouTube channel which showed him telling the camera: “You don’t have to be 18 for this, because this is a virtual currency.”
The site generated a pre-tax profit of almost £100,000 between July 2015 and February 2016.
Jack McGarva, District Judge at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, said the men turned a “blind eye” to the damage that the site was causing to children gamblers.
“The aggravating features of these offences are they were committed over a relatively long period of about six months. Children were gambling on your site. It’s impossible for me to know how many or the effect on them,” he said.
Last year, an alarming study found that online gambling among teenagers is on the rise. A study of 96,000 school children across 35 countries in Europe found that gambling was increasing among children aged 15 and 16.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (ESPAD) found that gambling has “the same potential to become addictive as psychoactive substances”.
The study called adolescent gambling a “major public health concern” and stated that it could lead to strained relationships, criminal behaviour, mental disorders, and a greater risk of suicidal thoughts.