The UK’s culture minister, Tracey Crouch, has hinted at a potential ban on National Lottery products for under-18s.
What is the National Lottery?
In the UK, the National Lottery was first started in 1994 by the consortium Camelot and regulated by the National Lottery Commission. It began with a weekly lottery ticket – Lotto – where a hefty amount of prize money is awarded to winners, with a contingent amount set aside for local and international charities.
Approximately 50% of the UK population take part in the Lotto each month, buying on average three tickets each.
Over the years, the lottery has added another five products to its range, plus a multitude of scratch cards sold for as little as £1 ($1.3) each across the country. While raising around £30m ($34m) a week for charities, it has also made millionaires of teens like Jane Park and Callie Rogers.
Jane Parks was just 17 years old when she scooped the top prize – £1m ($1.3m) on the Euromillions lottery. But she has since campaigned to raise the threshold to 18 before a person can play, and even threatened to sue the lottery for ”negligence”.
Since the win, she has said: “I thought it would make my life ten times better, but instead it’s made it ten times worse.” She believes that being a millionaire at such a young age is too stressful and has made bad investments since the win.
Another person unhappy with her luck is Callie Rogers. Britain’s youngest winner, Callie won £1.9m ($2.5m) at just 16, but a decade later had only £2000 ($2700) left in the bank. She was last reported to be training as a nurse but had an affluent lifestyle in her teens that she shared with the press. In a 2010 interview with Rogers – during which she spoke about her decision to have breast implants and revealed she’d attempted suicide three times – she said of her fortune:
“It was too much money for someone so young. Even if you say your life won’t change, it does – and often not for the better. It nearly broke me, but thankfully, I’m now stronger.”
The family routine
Although the National Lottery doesn’t publish the figures for under-16 involvement, there are those that say it is a great introduction to responsible gambling. One such is 16-year-old Hannah Dawson from Leicester who’s been helping dad Tim to choose their numbers as a weekly family occurrence since she was around 12 years old. She says: “At first the family would just do birthdays and other big dates, but then my dad asked me one day if I would like to choose a line of numbers, and we won £10 ($13). From then I’ve helped in every week.”
The two have since spent time looking statistically at the likelihood of some numbers, and Ellie believes it has improved her mathematics and finance. “I definitely see that gambling is an experiment and not a way to get rich quick. We always say if you can’t afford to lose, don’t play. But I enjoy predicting the numbers, and if you have a bad week, it’s still experience for the next one,” she said.
When Ellie turned 16, she celebrated by buying her own ticket. She said: “This time there was no input from Dad!” And although she didn’t win the first time, since then she has had her money back and more. “I would be very upset if it were taken away. It’s given me a bit of independence. I have a Saturday job in a bakery; so as I see it, I’ve earned the money and I should be allowed to spend it.”
Of course, while the headlines have been on Lotto and other lottery products, the real danger for under 18s is scratch cards, which some have compared to crack-cocaine. With games featuring well-known household brands such as Monopoly, it’s easy for teens to hand over money in the hope of a quick win. But the £1 ($1.3) cards are getting scarce. Prices can vary between £2($2.6), £5 ($7), and £10 ($13) at the checkout, which can soon add up for a teenager.
UK Culture Minister Tracey Crouch has said that she will now “gather evidence” of the effect these products have on impressionable teenagers.
The lottery age rise could take effect in 2023 as the next license comes into force. Current operator Camelot said it hopes to “actively participate” in any negotiations.
The news was welcomed by Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, who called the potential changes a “step in the right direction”. However, he called for an entirely new Gambling Act “fit for the digital age”.
With FOBT’s taking the spotlight recently, young teenagers could now be the next focus for the UK Gambling Authority.