Children, young people and gambling

Tim Miller children problem gambling
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Introduced by executive director Tim Miller, the Gambling Commission outlines its view on the potential need for player protections on Cat D, based on advice from the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board.


With regards to permissible legal access to certain gambling products, such as category D gaming machines or, for young people aged 16 and above, draw-based National Lottery products, we agree that we do not yet have compelling evidence to be able to state whether significant harms are caused. However, we also agree that this lack of evidence should not be a cause for complacency by the industry, regulators or government.

We already take into account protections for children and young people, as well as other vulnerable groups, when considering operators’ suitability to hold, or continue to hold, a licence. Our three year strategy Making gambling fairer and safer is clear that those operators who do not meet these obligations should expect to face tough sanctions.

We will work with industry (including trade bodies such as BACTA) to explore what more they can do to improve standards of player protection – particularly those parts of the industry who (legally) sell their products to under-18s as customers, such as the arcade sector and the National Lottery operator. We agree that low stakes should not automatically lead us to assume that risks associated with these activities are also low. The National Responsible Gambling Strategy sets out priority actions for piloting new types of intervention (Priority Action 6) and understanding whether these activities are effective (Priority Action 3).

So far, progress by operators has been slow. We expect operators selling products to under 18s, regardless of stake level, to consider what further proportionate actions could be taken to reduce the risk of harm. The Commission will work with the industry and others to identify what activities should be prioritised for piloting and evaluation.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s advice emphasises the need to aim for higher standards in age verification. Evidence indicates relatively low, but still unacceptable, numbers of children and young people accessing age-restricted products. The data has many caveats, and it is not possible to identify exactly what proportion of gambling by these age groups is on age restricted products. There is, however, good reason to be concerned by the picture shown by the data. This confirms our view that action is needed to improve age verification processes, as well as the testing of these processes to ensure they are effective. Action is also needed by parents and other adults with responsibility for under 18s, to help them avoid inadvertently enabling their gambling.

Although we accept that age verification processes can never be perfect, we agree that we should aim for higher rates of detection than are currently achieved. We welcome steps taken by some parts of the industry to introduce schemes that work for them to achieve these higher rates of detection – such as Think 25 policies, instead of Think 21. In both of these schemes, effective implementation and monitoring is important to ensure a positive impact is achieved.

We will continue to encourage and support a strong local response and intelligence sharing from local authorities – our partners in shared regulation. As part of this support, the Gambling Commission is working with regulatory services and Safeguarding Boards to help encourage local action on underage gambling, and the particular risks of the siting of illegalmachines or other illegal gambling.

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