Lottery minimum age to rise from 16 to 18 as gambling review launched

The minimum age to play the National Lottery is to rise from 16 to 18 next year.

The announcement came as the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden launched a major review of gambling laws in a bid to protect children and vulnerable people.

The new age restriction will come into effect from October 2021 and online sales to 16 and 17 year olds are due to stop in April, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Nigel Huddleston, minister for sport, tourism and heritage, said the age change would help ensure that the lottery is not a “gateway to problem gambling”.

Mr Dowden said the gambling industry had evolved “at breakneck speed” and that the review aims to “help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely”.

Protective measures such as stake and spend limits, advertising and promotional offers and whether extra protections for young adults are needed will all be looked at, DCMS said.

The review will also consider online restrictions, marketing and the powers of the Gambling Commission as part of a call for evidence, to examine how the industry has changed in the past 15 years.

The department said the Government recognises the need to balance people’s enjoyment from gambling with the “right regulatory framework and protections”.

The review will consider evidence on the action customers can take where they feel operators have breached social responsibility requirements, including interventions, as well as how to ensure children and young people are kept safe from gambling-related harm.

Mr Dowden, said: “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age.

“From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.

“This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.

“This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm – banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.”

Mr Huddleston said: “We’re committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery.

“Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling.”

A spokeswoman for Camelot, the National Lottery operator, said they had always said that they would “fully support” any decision to raise the minimum age to play.

She added: “Now that a decision has been made to raise the age to 18 by October 2021, we’ll be doing everything we can to implement all of the changes that will be necessary as quickly as possible, while ensuring that we maintain the very high standards demanded of The National Lottery.

“We’ve already started this work in preparation and, subject to receiving the appropriate licence variations and waivers from the Gambling Commission, we’re aiming to complete all of the changes that are needed in our online channels by early April 2021 and, in our retail channel, over the course of the summer – well in advance of the change in law.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said they “strongly welcome” the review launch and the Lottery minimum age rise, saying it must be “one rule for all”.

He said: “I hope ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk.

“The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.”

He also called on the review to “take account of the huge economic contribution made by the betting and gaming industry”, which he said employs over 100,000 people.

He said: “Millions of people enjoy an occasional flutter on sports, on bingo, on the Lottery, in casinos and online. I hope that everyone has their say in the review – including millions of customers who enjoy betting safely, as well as the hardworking men and women employed in the industry.”

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