UK raises legal age to play the National Lottery from 16 to 18

Dec 8, 2020, 3:12 pm (1 comment)

UK National Lottery

Law change goes into effect next year as the government reviews the lottery and gaming industry

By Kate Northrop

Starting next year, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to play the National Lottery. In a move to curb the potential development of harmful gambling habits in a rapidly evolving digital age, the UK government announced that they will be raising the legal age to play the lottery to 18.

Following a review of gambling laws launched by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the change in legal age to play the lottery will go into effect in October 2021, with online sales for minors aged 16 and 17 ceasing in April 2021.

The review of the Gambling Act mainly serves to protect those most vulnerable to poor gambling practices in an era where online play is much more accessible than ever before. While the increased age requirement to play the National Lottery is the first formal change to come of it, the review could lead to other possible outcomes, such as a cap on online casino stakes, a limit on advertising, the banning of sponsorship of sport by betting firms, and the implementation of affordability checks to protect players from betting beyond what they can afford, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

One other speculated result of the review could be a system where new games are tested and audited prior to release, which might mean the barring of games that are pre-determined to be too dangerous for vulnerable players.

"Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age," Dowden said. "From an era of having a flutter in a high-street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed. This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely."

Dowden also cited the previous steps the government had taken to protect consumers in the lottery and gaming industry, such as "banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals."

A study conducted by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) found that "consumers are exposed to large numbers of unlicensed operators (38%) through search results for key gambling terms on major search engines." As illegal gambling websites do not typically maintain strict ID and age verification measures unlike official UK licensed operators, the lack of restrictions make it possible for children to partake in underage gambling or develop dangerous habits early on.

In a 16-week call for evidence, the Gambling Commission, the regulator responsible for overseeing gambling and gaming law in Great Britain, will also have its responsibilities and powers reviewed in an attempt to tackle issues such as this that are a direct result of an unregulated parallel market.

Michael Dugher, the Chief Executive of the BGC, welcomed the government's review and, in referencing the subsequent age requirement change for playing the National Lottery, said that it drives the industry toward a safer standard.

"Our members do not allow betting by under-18s, so we welcome in particular confirmation of the Government's decision to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from playing the National Lottery," Dugher said in a statement. "It's got to be one rule for all."

Some groups have criticized the government for not acting fast enough to protect minors. The Lords Select Committee on gambling, which is appointed to examine the social and economic impact of the gaming industry, was not pleased that the new law would be coming into effect nearly a full year from now.

While Lord Grade of Yarmouth, the Chair of the committee, said that he was "heartened" by the government's interest in mitigating harm to those most vulnerable, he expressed disappointment "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," Lord Grade stated.

Camelot, the operator of the UK National Lottery, said that it fully supports the decision made by the government to raise the minimum age to play and that they are doing everything in their power to implement necessary changes prior to the new law while maintaining the high standards demanded of the National Lottery.

"The National Lottery is a vast a complex operation, with a network of 44,000 independently owned retailers across the UK and more than 8.5 million active registered players, making it Europe's largest online lottery in terms of sales," Camelot explained in a statement. "With our operating license requiring us to ensure that the minimum age to play appears on all physical materials, as well as in all online channels, the changeover will not happen overnight. This isn't simply a case of sending new stickers to retailers or flicking an online switch."

There are a lot of moving parts that need to be carefully examined before the law change goes into effect, which might explain the lengthy timeframe. Retailers, for example, are just one piece of the puzzle. With around 80 different individual items that need changing or removing, the Lottery needs to ensure that they modify in-store elements like signage, permanent point of sale equipment, physical tickets and scratch-offs, and pay slips. This is in addition to reviewing and editing Games Rules and Procedures, online Player Guides, app alerts and notifications, and automated emails, just a few components to name out of 50 other non-retailer areas that need addressing.

Although the government's review aims to tackle problem areas in the industry through more effective controls and regulation, DCSM said that the government understands that it must maintain necessary balance between enjoyment derived from gaming and the "right regulatory framework and protections" that will serve to protect those most vulnerable.

"Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift toward online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling," Nigel Huddleston, minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism said.

Lottery Post Staff



Learned something today....playing that young?

No more credit cards?   Protecting consumers is a good idea I guess, but if it affects their bottom line things might change.

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