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Camelot told: stop sales to children

NATIONAL Lottery organisers Camelot were yesterday told to do more to stop children buying tickets and scratchcards. The warning by the lottery regulator Oflot followed new research showing that 50 per cent of children between 12 and 15 have bought a scratchcard illegally.

John Stoker, acting director of Oflot following the resignation earlier this month of Peter Davis, said Camelot must work harder to stop sales to children. He said: "Camelot have been doing things that are designed to get a handle on the problem. But the figures do suggest that not enough is being done. It is obviously of some concern to us."

A spokesman for Camelot said: "Camelot has always been committed to preventing under-age sales and we believe we have the most rigorous age controls in the lottery industry."

Camelot currently runs a hotline for people who believe a retailer is selling to under-age customers. But the spokesman admitted only 26 outlets have had their franchise removed for supplying tickets to children since the lottery began.

Research commissioned by Oflot and conducted by gambling expert Dr Sue Fisher revealed that 2 per cent of the 10,000 children surveyed had a serious problem with scratchcards - gambling to the extent that relationships with family and friends, and school work, were affected.

Paul Bellringer, director of the gambling support group Gamcare, said scratchcard addiction damaged children's lives. He said: "It is quite devastating. First they use up all their own money, then they steal from the family and finally they steal from the outside. They will often start absenting themselves from school and become isolated from their friends."

After Tracey Makin became a millionaire at the age of 16 when she scooped the lottery jackpot last month, fears have grown that younger and younger children will be tempted by scratchcards and the lottery.

Campaigners are also concerned that the lottery is portrayed as family fun, rather than a form of gambling, with the televised draw going out at prime time on BBC1.

Mr Bellringer yesterday called for the lottery age limit to be raised to 18. He said: "We are given the impression that the lottery is a soft form of entertainment, and it can be, but it is also gambling and people should be cautious with it. "If the lottery age limit is 16 that really means 13- and 14-year-olds will be playing."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture said the Government had no plans at present to raise the age limit.

The Gamcare helpline number is: 0845 6000133