TEENAGERS who use gambling-style games on phones and other devices are up to three times more likely to engage in real gambling.
A study of Adelaide students aged 12 to 17 found one in five gambles at least once a year.
Another study found more than half of problem gamblers start betting before they are 20.
To be published in February in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, the study found that the most common simulated gambling was through video games, including Grand Theft Auto V and Pokemon, Facebook gambling applications such as Zynga Poker, and smartphone gambling apps such as Slotomania.
Headed by Dr Daniel King, the Adelaide University study divided students into those who played gambling-style games and spent money on real gambling, and those who didn't play such games, but engaged in real gambling.
Simulated gambling was found to be a "popular activity''. Thirteen per cent of the students had taken part in the past 12 months, and 32 per cent at least once in their life.
"This study examined the potential risks of simulated gambling via digital and social media in terms of its association with monetary gambling and pathological gambling,'' Dr King said.
"Card games and scratch tickets - which had the strongest link to simulated gambling - were three times more prevalent among simulated gamblers as compared to adolescents who did not engage in simulated gambling.
"Simulated gambling activities were three or more times as popular among those adolescents who recorded measures of pathological gambling."
Separate research has shown that more than half of problem gamblers start gambling before they turn 20.
A report by The Social Research Centre, prepared for the Communities and Social Inclusion Department, found 52 per cent of problem gamblers started gambling in their teens.
The Gambling Prevalence in South Australia 2012 survey of 9402 adults was conducted between October and December last year.
Overall, it found that people aged under 35 "exhibited higher prevalence for almost all of the gambling activities" except buying lotto tickets. Electronic gaming machines, sports and internet betting were the most popular among young people.
In the study, there were 1050 subjects who did not play simulated gambling games and 164 who did. Seventy-three responses were excluded.
Among students surveyed, the most common types of monetary gambling were scratchie tickets (186 students), horse racing (126), card games (114), sports betting (69), lotteries (66) and electronic gaming machines (40).
Earlier this month, Premier Jay Weatherill released a Children, Technology and Gambling policy, an Australian-first online "watch-list" to guide parents on gambling-like apps and games and new laws that apply classifications.
The policy includes a public awareness campaign and includes newspaper, online and radio advertisements.
"I have made it clear that I won't stand back and watch a new generation of gambling addicts emerge, so we will be taking steps to lead the nation, just like we did with our ban on live-odds advertising during sport events," he said.
But SACOSS executive director Ross Womersley said the State Government should start by reducing its own gambling revenue and Dr King said children bypassed measures designed to stop them gambling.
Dr King said children were bypassing measures designed to stop them gambling.
"We are genuinely alarmed at the long-term consequences that will almost certainly flow from the promotion and normalising of gambling in its many forms and the way in which this specifically targets children," he said..
"This study provides further evidence that youth can access and do engage in monetary gambling activities despite established barriers to entry,'' he said.
Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon said he had introduced a Bill to the Senate a year ago to try and ban one gaming loophole, which allows children to download apps for free but then pay between $2 and $21 for in-game coins.
THIRTY-NINE per cent of students who played simulated gambling games also bought scratchies with real money, but only 11.6 per cent of the remainder did.
ALMOST 33 per cent of those who played simulated gambling games bet with real money on horses, but only 6.9 per cent of the remainder did.
ONE IN FIVE students who played simulated gambling games paid money for card games, while just 7.5 per cent of the remainder did.
A SIMILAR proportion who played simulated gambling games bought lottery tickets with real money. Only 3.2 per cent of the remainder did.
ALMOST 18 per cent who played simulated gambling games bet on sports with money, compared to only 3.8 per cent of the remainder.
NINE per cent of students who played simulated gambling games also paid money on electronic gaming machines. Only 2.4 per cent of the remainder did.