What British regulators do to prevent underage gambling

With tight regulations in place, all licensed industry participants must comply with the established procedures to prevent minors from gambling-related harm.

Great Britain is home to a flourishing and well-regulated gambling industry whose total gross gaming yield amounted to an impressive £14.2 billion between April 2019 and March 2020.

With tight regulations in place, all licensed industry participants must comply with the established procedures to prevent minors from gambling-related harm.

The minimum lawful age for gambling in the country is 18 years old. However, this applies to sports betting, bingo and casino games, horse and greyhound race wagering, and online gambling. Citizens can purchase scratchcards or buy tickets for the National Lottery if they meet the minimum age requirement of 16. The question is do all Brits comply with these legal requirements? Let’s take a look at some figures to see to what extent the measures are effective. 

UK Underage Gambling Participation in Numbers

The British gambling regulator, the UKGC, has consistently demonstrated commitment to protecting minors from gambling harm over the years. In 2020, the watchdog tasked the global market research company Ipsos MORI with a survey that aimed to measure the gambling participation rates among the British youth. 

The coronavirus pandemic and the associated school closures partially affected the study because the results did not include youngsters from Wales. The study involved 1,645 Scottish and English secondary-school students within the 11 to 16 age group. As many as 9% of the survey participants admitted they have gambled with their own money within the past seven days prior to the survey. 

Approximately 37% of the English and Scottish surveyed pupils said they had gambled at least once in the past year. Around 1.9% of the students belonged to the category of problem gamblers, while 2.7% were at-risk of developing a problem.

Comparison with the 2019 Participation Rates

Let’s have a look at the results from the previous year to give readers more context. The 2019 Ipsos MORI survey was similar but it involved more participants – 2,943 students aged 11 to 16 from all over the country took part. As much as 11% of the kids said they had gambled with their own money over the past week, with an average spend of £17. 

As for problematic behaviour, 1.7% of the young people who partook in gambling belonged to the category of problem gamblers, while 2.7% were labelled as “at risk” gamblers. At first glance, the new figures indicate a decline in underage gambling participation. 

Before anyone jumps to definitive conclusions, however, they should take into account the smaller sample size. The 2020 survey did not include students from Wales. The recent decline in underage gambling is by no means definitive. The latest figures do not represent the whole country as they did in previous years and are not conclusive. 

UKGC Preventive Measures against Underage Gambling

Now, let’s see what procedures for preventing underage gambling the authorities have adopted to reduce participation rates among the British youth. One of the most important regulatory changes that occurred recently had to do with the age verification procedures at UK-licensed gambling sites. 

Rather than verifying the age after customers request their first withdrawal, UK operators must now validate all accounts before users have deposited and placed any bets. Each registered player must submit documents to verify their identity and affirm they are lawfully old enough to place bets. Only then they can gain access to the website’s cashier and the demo versions of the casino games. 

Another key measure concerns minors’ exposure to gambling-related advertisements. The UK recently witnessed more solid restrictions on gambling advertising. British broadcasters cannot show gambling commercials during televised sports events before the 9 pm watershed. These restrictions are of immense importance, even more so considering the 2020 Ipsos MORI study showed 58% of English and Scottish school students have witnessed gambling ads or sponsorships. 

What is more, 7% of them confirmed this caused them to gamble even though they initially had no intentions of doing so. In this vein, it is also worth mentioning the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) strictly prohibits gambling operators from using advertising content and imagery that may appeal to children and adolescents. 

The UK regulators have strengthened their focus on preventing minors from being exposed to gambling marketing content. It is no secret that celebrities, influencers, and other public figures often serve as role models for youngsters, especially teenagers. The trouble is their influence is not always positive or healthy for the youth. 

This is probably one of the main reasons why the British Committee on Advertising Practices (CAP) proposed to ban celebrities, reality stars, and sports personalities from participating in gambling-related marketing campaigns. CAP has started a public consultation on this subject and the measure has not yet come into effect. Some campaigners have even spoken in favour of a complete ban on gambling marketing but only time can tell what will happen. 

Responsible Behaviour Begins at Home

As tough regulators like the CAP, the UKGC, and the ASA are on gambling operators, the truth is responsible behaviour begins at home. It is up to parents and legal guardians to teach youngsters well and fill them in on the potential harms that come with excessive gambling. 

The least they can do is set a good example and not gamble in front of the little ones. Parental controls are another effective approach when it comes to restricting minors’ access to gambling. 

Never use your browser’s autosave feature to save the log-in credentials for your online gambling accounts. You can also block the access to gambling content on your child’s personal computer or smart device. 

Parents can find free blocking software like Net Nanny or tools like BetBlocker on the internet. BetBlocker, in particular, has the capability of restricting the access to over 16,300 gambling sites. Last but not least, do not underestimate the importance of open dialogue. Parents should openly talk with their children so they can stop problematic behaviour before it even starts. 

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