Sports and civil society minister Mims Davies has said banning 16 and 17- year olds from lottery card and ticket sales would drive home the message that “gambling starts at 18”. Proscription, it seems, is the government’s preferred weapon in the arsenal.
The minister responsible for gambling has indicated that the government will soon attempt to raise the legal age of all wagering and betting activity in the UK to 18 – a measure which would ban those aged 16 and 17 from purchasing scratching cards and tickets for the National Lottery.
In an interview for parliament’s The House magazine, Mims Davies – who took over from Tracey Crouch as UK minister for Sports and Civil Society in November – said that the government would “soon put forward” a new mandate to raise the minimum age of for over-the-counter ticket and scratch-card purchases, in order “to be very clear that gambling starts at 18.”
“We are very clear that where people are connected to their communities and they want to support causes in appropriate ways, it’s not to stop people from having fun, but it’s also to protect those most vulnerable people,” she added. “That’s where government needs to step in.”
Davies’ appointment to her present position coincided with the publication of the Gambling Commission’s, widely publicised but sparsely scrutinised, latest report on the state of underage gambling activity in Britain, which found that 14 per cent of surveyed 11-16 year-olds had spent their own money on gambling during the past week – a higher rate of occurrence than both alcohol consumption (13 per cent), smoking (4 per cent) and illegal drug use (2 per cent) respectively.
Tellingly however, the bulk of this illicit gambling occurred within the private sphere: with bets being placed between friends or on wagers on social card-games accounting for most of the small “within the last seven days”contingent’s activity. Meanwhile, just 4 per cent of 11-16 year olds copped to having purchased a scratch- card or lottery ticket: and it can only be assumed that most (if not all) of these children would have been of legal age (16) to do so. Underage slot- machine use was even more minimal: with only 3 per cent of participants self-reporting machine play.
Far more concerning were the numbers relating to children’s engagement with digital forms of gambling: the same study found 13 per cent of those surveyed admitting to having played gambling style games online, whilst almost a third (31 per cent) had opened a so-called“loot- box” – a collection of in- game items which can be sold or wagered.
This skew of under- age players towards the digital sphere makes Davies’ announcement as to a scratch-card clampdown all the more perplexing.Then again, she has found herself at the helm of the industry regulator’s parent ministry at a time of unprecedented state antipathy for gambling – a social activity that government increasingly seems to view as a moral-ill, to be expunged in its entirety.