The UK government has announced a move that will seek to increase the age limit of scratch card purchases from 16 to 18 years-old.
In the United Kingdom, the minimum age for gambling is 18 years-old. However, the National Lottery has been an exception to this rule. Since its launch in 1994, the government-backed franchise has been permitted to sell scratch cards and lottery tickets to players as young as 16.
Mims Davies, the minister for sport and civil society, confirmed on the 22nd February 2019 that the government intends to seek an increase in the age limit to 18.
“We need to be very clear that gambling starts at 18. It’s not to stop people from having fun, but it’s to protect those most vulnerable people. That’s where the government needs to step in,” she said in a press interview.
The Government appears hopeful that it can pass the necessary changes to the law. Notwithstanding, the operator of the UK's National Lottery (Camelot) could bring a legal challenge against the proposed amendment. Although, the Government could avoid a court ruling by merely making the age restriction a prerequisite for the next National Lottery licence competition in 2023.
Each year around half of the UK's adult population buys a lottery ticket or scratch card. Including 65,000 16 year-olds. The Gambling Commission, a body which regulates gaming in the UK, says that almost one in 20 children aged between the ages of 11 and 16 plays the National Lottery.
The move did not come as a surprise to industry insiders. In recent years regulators have cracked down on practices that they deem predatory. British facing online casinos have been fined for targetting youngsters in their advertising. Sports Betting companies like Bet365 and Paddy Power have also come under scrutiny.
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which includes Bet365, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power, have agreed voluntarily to stop adverts during live football matches. It follows political pressure about the amount of betting advertising on UK Television.
For now, at least, it seems gaming companies and bookmakers in the United Kingdom will face continued pressure from the Government and NGOs to act more responsibly.
In response to the news, a Camelot spokesperson, said: “We have no issue with a government review of the age limit for buying National Lottery products and are happy to assist in any way we can to help inform the decision.”