Around 55,000 children are problem gamblers, the Bishop of St Albans has said, in what he has called a “generational scandal”.
Revd Dr Alan Smith says the children have been lured into gambling after being targeted by betting adverts.
He believes gambling is now a bigger problem for children than drink and drugs.
The bishop said: “Under-18s are regularly inundated with more than three gambling adverts a day while 90% of pubs fail to stop children from gambling on the loud and bright fruit machines found in nearly every establishment.
“Children are the next target of an industry making billions in profits which shows little inclination to take any form of responsibility.”
“Gambling companies tell us they’re working hard to protect children but that claim simply doesn’t stack up.”
Revd Dr Smith began campaigning on the issue after meeting the parents of a boy who took his own life after becoming addicted to gambling.
He said: “That family’s loss is not an isolated case. It’s been depressing to meet several other grieving parents.”
He warned that there were still other challenges to be faced, adding: “Moaning about gambling isn’t good enough – substantial change is needed.”
The Remote Gambling Association rejected the criticism, saying current online safeguards are working.