Proposals are being put in place that will see the minimum age required to purchase a National Lottery ticket rising from 16 to 18, the government has said. The same alterations are also likely to be applied to instant-win scratch cards and online games should an upcoming consultation agree to it.
The changes would end the exception that is currently made for lottery games that allows 16 year olds to play when, for every other form of gambling, players are required to be at least two years older as is the case with other vices such as cigarettes and alcohol.
Proposing a consultation on the age limits for all National Lottery games in the House of Commons, Culture Minister Mims Davies admitted that, while lottery games were one of the still legal ways that allowed under 18’s to gamble, she refused to guarantee 16-year-olds will be banned from all games admitting that she would opt to split the age limits depending on game type. What this means is that the age limit for instant win games would be raised while draw based games would remain at 16.
Consultation to explore options
It was suggested that the consultation would explore three options, the first of which would be to do nothing and retain the current minimum age of 16. The second option, and Ms Davies’ favourite, is to raise the minimum age to 18 but only for scratchcards and online instant win games, while the third option would be to raise the minimum age to 18 for all National Lottery games.
Ms Davies told MPs;
“The age of 18 is widely recognised as an age one becomes an adult, gaining full citizenship rights and the responsibilities. At present, all lotteries can be played from 16 – one of the very few age limits for gambling under-18 products.
My initial view is based on the evidence reviewed so far, so it is that such a split could be the best approach. This takes into account the risk of harm associated with playing the National Lottery is at the lowest of any form of gambling.
But we do know the risk of harm is slightly higher for instant win games than it is for draw-based games such as Lotto. Therefore, I am keen to seek further evidence in this area and hear what others think given that the National Lottery matters so much to so many people, including hearing from the operators, distributors and retailers about any potential impacts and benefits of the change.”
The proposed consultation, which was made despite the government already admitting that all forms of gambling should require a minimum age of 18, angered many in the house of commons with senior Conservative and Labour MPs arguing that there is no need to consult on the matter as 18 should be the minimum age across the board, no questions asked.
In defending her stance on splitting the difference between lottery and other gambling types, Ms Davies suggested that the National Lottery represented a less harmful form of gambling and that 18 was the age in which people gained full citizenship rights and responsibilities.
The consultation will last until 8th of October 2019 with the minimum age coming into effect some time in 2020. Previously, it had been suggested that any increase would not take place before 2023, when Camelot’s current licence expires. For its part, Camelot, who operate the National Lottery, said it has no issue with a government review and were happy to assist in any way possible.
Advisory Board for Safer Gambling
Only last year the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) called for a review of the age limit on National Lottery instant win games and scratch cards. ABSG, who provide independent advice to the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), highlighted how gambling was more common among 11-15 year-olds than skateboarding and described under 18 access to lottery ticket machines as an historical accident. The report also suggested that it they were launching the lottery from scratch today, they would not recommend keeping the same age limitations.
UKGC figures from 2016 revealed 23% of 16-24-year-olds played the National Lottery that year, with 26% admitting to using scratchcards.