Teenagers who forget age limits for an instant

'Half our pocket money goes on weekly flutter'
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The Independent Online
CLARE GARNER

Under-age schoolchildren at London's Parliament Hill School regularly stake at least half their weekly pocket money on the National Lottery, it was claimed yesterday.

Thirteen-year-olds at the all- girls school in north-west London pass themselves off as 16-year-olds to shopkeepers if challenged about their age. None of them have been told to produce ID, they claim.

"They do ask my age at sweet shops but I just lie and they give it to me because they want the money," said one 13-year-old who on average spends half of her pounds 10 pocket money on the lottery.

And would she consider herself addicted to the lottery? "No way Jose," she said. "It's just a bit of fun, isn't it?"

Another 13-year-old at the school said: "I think it's great because you get the chance to win lots of money for just pounds 1." Some weeks she spends all of her pounds 10 pocket money on the lottery.

Getting her hands on the tickets is not a problem. "I just ask shopkeepers and they let me buy them. I keep saying that my mum is outside the shop but she never is," she said.

Others ask their parents to buy the tickets for them. For one girl, also 13, it is her father's frequent winning that convinces her that the lottery is a profitable business. "I buy a scratch card each week and my dad gets me a lottery ticket. I've never won but my dad always wins when he does it."

Ever since it began, the lottery has been a topic of conversation at the school, although losing is something to keep quiet about, the girls said. "If you win you talk about it, but if you don't, you shut up," explained one girl.

It is a subject which divides the class. One 14-year-old girl from the same year as the others takes a firm stand against the lottery. "I don't bother wasting my time and money on it. My parents don't agree with it either. Our class is split into people who do and people who don't play it."

Two shops within 200 yards of Parliament Hill School sell lottery tickets. Both are conscious of the need to prevent under-age sales.

Harish Patel, 28, a partner at Twin Peaks supermarket, which sells lottery tickets and Instants, said: "If there is any doubt, we ask for proof that they are 16. We don't accept national insurance cards because there is no photo." He said parents were the real problem. "You get parents coming in with their kids and the kids scratch off the cards in the shop," he said.

Anil Patel, 40, manager of Parliament Hill News, which only sells Lucky Lotto cards finds it necessary to challenge a couple of children a week. "Ninety-nine per cent of the kids know exactly that they are not going to get served lottery tickets, cigarettes, or anything else like that in this shop."

This may explain why most of the schoolchildren at the school tend to purchase their tickets on a Saturday.

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