The evidence provides the first proof of underage sales, which had been widely reported on an informal basis to Camelot, which operates the Lottery. Yesterday David Rigg, director of communications, promised instant punishment if its inquiries backed up the charity's findings. "If there is a clear- cut case of a retailer selling knowingly to underage youngsters then we will make a very public example of them and we will throw them out," he said.
The widespread flouting of the law, aimed at protecting children from the scratch cards which experts believe can be addictive , was uncovered by Children's Express. The American organisation, which runs a news-agency staffed by adolescents, sent eight "reporters" aged 12 to 15 to buy tickets.They were successful in 31 out of 50 attempts.
The supermarkets which sold the children tickets included Safeway, Tesco, Sainsbury, Woolworth, WH Smith, BP Shell, Texaco, and the Post Office. The smaller stores which sold the children scratch cards and tickets for the weekly draw included Europa, 7-Eleven and Kwik Save but newsagents were the worst. On two-thirds of occasions the children were sold lottery products. Some shops which initially refused the children, later sold them tickets.
The charity will hand its file to Oflot today. As lottery watchdog, it has the power to insist on the removal of terminals in the shops concerned. An Oflot spokesman said : "We would expect Camelot to take any allegation extremely seriously. If a retailer knowingly sells to a minor we would expect Camelot to be prepared to take the ultimate sanction - disconnection. If Camelot failed to meet its obligations, the Director General has the ultimate sanction of revoking the licence."
Tesco said: "We are very conscious of our responsibilities and stores tell staff that lottery tickets should only be sold to people of 16 or over."
Sainsbury which sold one scratch card to a 12-year-old girl and another to a 15-year-old, said: "We are concerned to hear of the instances where they did not refuse underage children."
Safeway, which sold tickets on five out of eight occasions, said: "We will be re-emphasising the potential problem to our staff and reviewing our training material." Woolworth said: "We regret the recent incident when apparently tickets were sold to under 16-year-olds."
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