Gambling Age Restrictions UK
There are rules that we all accept without questioning. If you go for example to a pub and get a pint and you are 17 years old and 364 days old then you are doing something against the law. Do exactly the same the day after, and it would be fine. In the US, for example, you have to have at least over the age of 21 years old to drink alcohol. So every law that is based on age it is arbitrary. We all have to accept it though as it is the law. The same thing applies to sex, drive and gambling.
In this article, we will look at the current law regarding gambling and age, how it was formed and what we might expect in the future.
What is the Current UK Law In Regards to Age?
In the UK there are different age limits are depending on what people are gambling on. So the law is pretty complicated: a 16 years old can spend £100 on the National Lottery, Football Pools but cannot make a £1 bet in a casino.
In theory, a 5-year-old could spend thousands of pounds on coin pusher games or teddy grabbers, and they won’t be breaking the gambling law. Difficult to think they will have that amount of money but if they did they will not be breaking the law.
Again, it is not illegal for someone below 18 to enter a bingo hall, but they cannot do any gambling while there. This is why lots of bingo clubs have decided to avoid under 18 entering the premises so that they are not risking to breaking the law.
Why Are Different Age Limits?
Since the current law is confusing it would be better to have gambling age limit levelled out. It is not clear why some form of gambling is seen as more dangerous than others to youths. Surely this is not by how much money you can potentially win as 16 years old can potentially pocket more than £100 million with EuroMillions.
Surely there are concerns that a young punter could invest money into a roulette or blackjack. But then the same risks is on buying a scratchcard as the youth can re-buy more and more times effectively gambling a high amount of cash.
Protecting youths is very important as research shows that underage gamblers are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a gambling problem compared with adults.
Permitting young people to play the National Lottery is a non-sense also because it is a game that has a vast ‘margin’ for the house: the margin of the lottery is around 50% while in blackjack is close to 1% and in roulette is about 2.7%.
Many are arguing that rapid re-staking is the reason why casino games are not allowed until 18 years old. If you sit on a casino roulette, you can gamble more money every minute while with the lottery you have to wait a few hours after placing the bet to see the result. This argument, however, is not very solid as scratchcard gambling is completely legal for a sixteen-year-old and has the same risk of multiple staking.
One of the arguments is that because the National Lottery was introduced by the government, risks were not considered thoroughly, with the Treasury that didn’t want to see the revenue reduced by bringing the legal age two years higher. There is a minimal appetite to change the legal age of the lottery so we can expect things to remain as they are for a long time.
What Would Be The Benefit Of Raising The Gambling Age?
It is rather interesting to note that when you are sixteen you are allowed to procreate, and at seventeen you can start getting into a motorised vehicle that could easily result in a young people taking a life yet you are not allowed to step foot into a casino.
So it is difficult to answer the question about what would be the effect of raising the legal age for gambling. In Finland, they took the decision to increase the legal age limit from 15 to 18 in 2010 with overall positive results and a decrease in youth gambling.
There are also people that belief lowering the age limit will be beneficial for some sports, especially horse racing: the argument was that younger people will struggle to get into racing if they are allowed to get married before they can place a simple bet on horses. Others sports are suffering less this as the likes of football, rugby and cricket are played at school at a young age. Not many are able to get into horse racing in the same way, and surely the high gambling limit is affecting the popularity of this sport among young people.
It is difficult to foresee if there will be strong calls to change the age restriction in the next years. As long as politicians do not believe that there is a need for it, the gambling age limit will stay as it is. The Irish Government took the decision to increase the gambling age limit to 18 for everything: it was already 18 for the lottery in Ireland but 16 years old were allowed to enter amusement hall or arcade and play with a slot machine. It is possible that the British government will look at how things will go in Ireland before making a decision for the UK.