December 8, 2020 written by

Gambling Act review raises minimum lottery age to 18

Today, the UK Government launched a review of the 2005 Gambling Act. This will affect the current rules on stake limits, ad restrictions and the role of the Gambling Commission. 

Most significantly, there will be a change to the minimum age of those who can participate in the National Lottery from 16 to 18, starting from April next year. 

“The findings [of the review] will be used to inform any changes to the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure customer protection is at the heart of the regulations while giving those that gamble safely the freedom to do so,” said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 

It’s a long-awaited change 

This review has long been expected after the Conservative Party included plans for this in its manifesto before winning the 2019 General Election.

Secretary of state for the DCMS Oliver Dowden said the gambling industry has changed greatly since the 2005 Act, making a review necessary.

“While millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age,” Dowden said. “From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.” 

Protecting people 

The minimum age of those who can play the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18, so young people will no longer be able to buy tickets in shops by October 2021. Before that, online sales to 16 and 17-year-olds will end in April 2021.

DCMS said raising the minimum age is necessary as the way the lottery operates has undergone vast changes since its launch in 1994, with more players playing online and spending money on instant win games such as scratchcards.

“We’re committed to protecting young people from gambling-related harm which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery,” says Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston. “Patterns of play have changed since its inception […] and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling.”

Keeping the (lotto) ball rolling

These decisions are part of the Gambling Commission’s mission to increase the level of player protection in the British gambling industry. It has made significant strides over the past few years, including famously reducing the maximum possible stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 in 2018.

Additionally, last year, it implemented new age and ID verification requirements and in January of this year, it banned the use of credit cards to gamble.

The Commission has also launched consultations on safer game design and affordability this year, proposing an end to autoplay and quick spin features and the developments of affordability assessments.

VIP schemes are also on the brink of death, with licensees required to carry out better affordability and responsible gambling checks. It warns that loyalty schemes may be banned altogether if operators fail to comply with new controls.

What do we think?

This is an interesting move, considering the lottery isn’t typically considered as gambling (in the same sense as casinos and bingo) by the general public. That’s why it hasn’t had to adhere to the same rules and regulations set in place for casinos in terms of advertising.

Will the rise in age requirement help many? It’s hard to say. You don’t often hear of 16-year-olds being addicted to the lottery, and many play only once per week. A £1 ticket 52 weeks a year might not add up to much, but it’s positive to see more and more action being taken to protect minors, keeping gambling fun and preventing harm. 

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