Lottery to curb sales to children

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The Independent Online
A newsagent has been fined pounds 500 for selling National Lottery tickets to a child in the first prosecution of its kind, just as Oflot, the lottery watchdog, ordered a crackdown on underage gambling.

Undercover children are to be recruited to trap shopkeepers who sell tickets and scratch cards to under-16s and retailers will be required to display a hotline number which people can call if they witness underage sales.

Oflot's director-general, Peter Davis, described the existence of habitual young participants in the lottery as "disturbing".

He said: "That these children also tend to be involved with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and fruit machines, reinforces my determination to stamp out illegal and irresponsible behaviour by some traders."

Yesterday Leeds Magistrates' Court heard how two investigators from Camelot accompanied a 13-year-old girl into a newsagent's where she was sold an Aces High Instants ticket and a National Lottery draw ticket. Naheem Bashir, the shopowner, admitted selling the tickets but claimed he thought the girl was old enough to buy them.

Mary O'Shea, for West Yorkshire Trading Standards, which brought the case, old Leeds Magistrates' Court that the police and then Camelot were tipped off by the girl's stepfather after she bought a ticket from N & N Newsagents, in Armley, Leeds, in March this year. She said: "The girl was not asked her age even though in the investigators' view she does not look older than 13.

Describing Bashir, she added: "Although he was of previously good character this case is a salutary lesson that one can never be too careful. This is not a bad man, but unfortunately he has fallen foul of the situation."

Fining Bashir pounds 250 for each of two offences of selling lottery tickets to a person under 16, with pounds 325 costs, the chairman of the bench, Dr Brian Chaney, warned him that retailers had "an absolute obligation" to take care not to sell tickets to underage customers.

A Camelot spokeswoman said the Lottery contract with the Bashir's shop had been terminated, adding: "We are delighted that a trading standards department has for the first time prosecuted a National Lottery retailer for selling tickets to under age players."

Camelot has previously withdrawn terminals from three retailers who were found to be selling tickets to children.

The Oflot warning followed new research which showed that 3 per cent, of children were becoming persistent users of scratchcards.

The survey of 12 to 15-year-olds, commissioned by Oflot, found that a further 3 per cent of children had bought at least one ticket and that 9 per cent more had had tickets bought for them by adults.

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