Pub fruit machines are the latest form of gambling to come under attack as the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) seeks to crack down on their use by underage players. While in-pub gaming machines have long been limited to those over the age of 18, increasingly these machines are high paying, high costing offering a range of games similar to an online casino rather than old fashioned fruit machines.
Fruit machines were the most popular form of gambling among young people and the UKGC believe that as many as 84% of pub operators are not enforcing the law and preventing such people under the legal age from playing on these machines. That percentage, an improvement on 2018’s 88%, is in reference to the 170 pubs across England and Wales that were investigated as part of the campaign.
Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring the machines are regulated properly lies with the alcohol licensing authority but bar staff are still expected to stop young players from accessing them. At present, there are no age restrictions on category-D games machines, which include fruit machines.
Studies also show that boys gambled more frequently than girls and underage people from minority ethnic groups were also more likely to try gambling and then feel bad about it.
Improve Awareness In To The Matter
While there are unlikely claims that many members of staff in pubs are not aware of the rules, in truth pubs would appear not to be taking underage gambling as seriously as they do underage drinking, which ultimately threatens their alcohol licence.
However, unless pubs do start enforcing the law more strictly, they risk their right to offer such machines at all.
To that end, the UKGC has been working with local authorities to improve education over the matter and raise general standards. They are also in discussions with the Home Office to add gambling notifications inside of pubs, including rules for managers and landlords to adhere to.
The moves from the UKGC have been received well by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and UK Hospitality, who both aim to keep pubs safe for families while maintaining gaming machines as a vital revenue source in tough and testing times for pubs.
Together, they listed a set of principles that they have initiated to ensure such an outcome. These are, in collaboration within the sector, ensuring that staff understand their responsibilities, co-operation with both the regulatory bodies and the enforcement bodies, increased engagement with the UK Gambling Commission and supporting the work of charities like GambleAware, neither of which are responsible for the regulation of gaming machines.
Number Of Children Gambling Falling
Despite the above, the latest set of statistics published by the UKGC this month indicate that the number of children who are gambling is declining.
The 2019 Young People & Gambling survey found that 11% of 11 to 16-year-olds, around 350,000 children, questioned had gambled with real money the week that they were questioned, a drop from 2018’s 14%. In fact, the decline year on year has been fairly steady having peaked in 2011 at 23%.
The research concluded that the most common type of gambling activity for young people was making bets with friends for money, followed by playing cards with friends for money, both hard to regulate.
On the other hand, a further 3% admitted to purchasing National Lottery scratchcards over the past seven days, while 4% admitted to playing fruit machines that week.
In contrast, an alternative study conducted by the Cardiff University suggests that gambling is a growing problem. Their study looked at data from 37,363 11- to 16-year-olds at 193 secondary schools in Wales and found that two fifths have gambled in the past year.
According to Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller;
”Any child or young person that experiences harm from these areas is a concern to us and we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect them from gambling harms.
Most of the gambling covered by this report takes place in ways which the law permits, but we must keep working to prevent children and young people from having access to age-restricted products.
Protecting children and young people from gambling harms is a collective responsibility and requires us, other regulators, the government, gambling operators, charities, teachers and parents to work together to make progress.”
As well as games in pubs, concern remains over gambling-style games loot boxes in video games, over which the commission does not have regulatory control.