By Kate Northrop
In an effort to reduce problem gambling, the National Lottery will be raising the minimum age to play the lottery in the UK from 16 to 18 on Thurs., Apr. 22, 2021.
Figures show that over 200,000 16- and 17-year-olds regularly play the lottery or buy scratch-off tickets. This week, they will no longer have access to both online and retail Lottery products in a bid to reduce problem gambling among teens.
"We're committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm, which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery," Nigel Huddleston, the Minister for Sport, Heritage and Tourism said. "Patterns of play have changed since [the Lottery's] inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling."
In December 2020, Camelot Group, the operator of the National Lottery, released a statement on a government review conducted last year that found it necessary to raise the legal age to play the lottery in the UK.
"We've said all along that we would fully support any decision made by the government to raise the minimum age to play," a Camelot spokesperson said. "We'll be doing everything we can to implement all of the changes that will be necessary as quickly as possible, while ensuring that we maintain the very high standards demanded of The National Lottery."
Last year, the National Lottery made definite plans to raise the minimum age to 18 by October 2021 at the latest. Camelot estimated that the change would come into effect by early April 2021.
"We've already started this work in preparation and, subject to receiving the appropriate license variations and waivers from the Gambling Commission, we're aiming to complete all of the changes that are needed in our online channels by early April 2021 and, in our retailer channel, over the course of the summer – well in advance of the change in law," the Camelot spokesperson said in December.
However, the Lottery stated that the change will apply to all sales channels, including online games, in-person retail, and through the app.
Notable lottery winner Callie Rogers, who won a £1.9 million (US$3 million) fortune at the tender age of 16 in 2003 has been an advocate for raising the legal gambling age, drawing evidence from her own tragic experiences as Britain's youngest lottery winner. She argued that winning the lottery as a teenager, let alone gambling, is financially and mentally detrimental.
"You are only 16, with all that responsibility," Rogers said in an interview with The Mirror. "At that age, you can get the best advice ever, but you are not going to listen. I was too young."
A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research in 2012 found a strong correlation between problem gambling severity and an earlier onset of gambling.
In addition to curbing the potential for developing problem gambling in teens, another motivation for raising the legal age to play the lottery was to create synergy across all forms of gambling in the UK, which requires players to be at least 18 years of age.
The Lottery also reminded players that there are options available to help limit excessive spending and gambling, like setting limits for the amount you can deposit and spend each week or moderating your Instant Win Games play limit.
"Encouraging heathy play is at the heart of everything we do," a spokesperson said.