UK lawmakers have promised to increase the minimum legal age for National Lottery participation from 16 to 18. It is, so far, the only concrete measure to emerge from a long-awaited review of the country’s gambling laws that kicked off this week.
The National Lottery is currently the only gambling product that can be played by anyone under 18 in the UK — a law that is relatively unusual. In most countries around the world, the minimum age to gamble is at least 18.
There have been recent calls for the government to close this so-called “lottery loophole,” which allows those who are legally still children to buy scratch-off tickets and play digital instant-win style games.
The 16-17 age group spent £47 million ($60 million) on National Lottery games in 2017-18, according to UK newspaper The Times.
More Innocent Age
The age limit was drawn up when the UK launched its lottery in 1994. Back then, the product offering was relatively simple and arguably less harmful. Today, lottery operator Camelot is competing with the online gaming sector and has had to adapt its offering to include the “slots-like” instant-win games.
National Lottery Instant-win games and scratch-off tickets now account for 43 percent of all sales, or some £3.4 billion ($4.3 billion).
Camelot said it “would fully support any decision made by the government to raise the minimum age to play.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party included the gambling review in its 2019 election manifesto. That’s indicative of the public mood, which has turned against the liberal gambling regime that was ushered in by the UK Gambling Act in 2005.
‘Reformer’s Shopping List’
Launching the review, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, called the Gambling Act “an analog law in a digital age.”
“From an era of having a flutter in a high-street bookmaker, casino, race course or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed,” he said. “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.”
Sources told The Guardian last week that the review was looking like a “reformer’s shopping list,” suggesting we could be about to see a truly radical shake-up of one of the world’s most mature online gaming markets.
Among proposals up for consideration are possible restrictions on gambling advertising, including a ban on soccer shirt sponsorship. The review will also examine the possible imposition of stakes limits on certain games, and daily or weekly deposit or loss limits.
It will also look at the role of the UK Gambling Commission, which a legislative committee recently described as “torpid” and “toothless.”
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