Under-18s to be banned from playing lottery in gambling crackdown

Government launches gambling review to consider if ‘extra protections’ for children and young people needed

Kate Ng
Tuesday 08 December 2020 15:21
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Blue National Lottery sign, showing its crossed fingers logo, in front of shop entrance
Blue National Lottery sign, showing its crossed fingers logo, in front of shop entrance

The minimum age for playing the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18 from October 2021, as part of a “major and wide-ranging review” of gambling laws in the UK.

According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the review will also consider online stake limits, gambling advertising and age limits to determine if “extra protections for young adults are needed”.

The Gambling Commission’s role and powers will also be examined as part of a call for evidence.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said the current legislation, which was established in 2005, is an “analogue law in a digital age” and the industry has “evolved at breakneck speed”.

The review is aimed at “tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people”, he said, adding: “This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm.”

Other measures introduced to reduce problematic gambling included tighter rules around age verification checks, cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, and more recently, a ban on gambling with credit cards from April 2020.

Sport minister Nigel Huddleston said raising the minimum age for the National Lottery will ensure the National Lottery “is not a gateway to problem gambling”.

The Gambling Commission called for evidence around how to ensure gambling operators identify and intervene where people are at risk of harm in October, and is expected to set out new rules on safer game design for online slots and withdrawing winnings.

While the raised age limit was welcomed, the Lords Select Committee on the gambling industry expressed disappointment that the rule would only come into force next October.

Lord Grade of Yarmouth, who chairs the committee, said although he was “heartened” by the government’s action to tackle gambling harm, he was “disappointed that it does not seem to understand the urgency of the problem”.

“I welcome the decision to raise the minimum age for buying national lottery products to 18, but cannot understand why the regulations have to wait until October 2021 before coming into force,” he said in a statement.

He also lamented the government’s indecision on the need to regulate loot boxes in the face of “overwhelming” evidence, and said regulations “could have been made months ago”.

Lord Grade added that “minor changes” to gambling advertising “have had little effect” and urged the government to recognise the need for tighter regulation.

“The Select Committee recommended a number of changes which could make an immediate difference. The Minister has the power to give effect to them now. Instead, the government is including this in its Review of the Gambling Act, and calling for yet more evidence.

“The government must keep tight control of the timetable of its review, and now allow it to be used as a mechanism for yet again deferring any significant changes,” he said.

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