UKGC Slams Bars for Failing to Stop Underage Gambling on Fruit Machines

  • 84% of bars surveyed in England and Wales don’t prevent underage use of fruit machines
  • It is the responsibility of bar staff to ensure only people aged at least 18 years old gamble
  • UKGC is calling on establishments to implement better training for staff to enforce rules
gambler pressing button on a fruit machine
According to new research, most bars in England and Wales are failing to stop underage people playing fruit machines. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Action needed

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is calling on bars in Wales and England to implement better safeguards to prevent underage people from gambling on fruit machines.

This request follows the publication of new research. This report shows that 84% of bars surveyed are failing to prevent underage gambling on these types of category C gaming machines. These machines have a maximum stake of £1 ($1.30) and a maximum payout per round of £100 ($130).

84% of bars surveyed are failing to prevent underage gambling on these types of category C gaming machines

These fruit machines, which are popular in bars across the UK, can legally only be played by people who are at least 18 years old. It is the responsibility of bar staff to stop underage people using these machines. The bars must display signs outlining the machine’s age requirements.

Concerning research

The UKGC has been working alongside the police and local authorities across the region for the past year to test the compliance of bars on this issue. The goal is to protect children from being exposed to gambling.

A similar study took place in England in 2018. This showed that 88% of the bars surveyed in the country were failing to stop underage players using fruit machines.

According to the UKGC, most bar employees are not even aware of the restrictions in place on these machines.

Calls for change

Helen Rhodes, program director of the UKGC, has spoken about how change needs to happen quickly, stating: “Bars must take age verification on machines as seriously as they do for alcohol sales, and they risk losing their entitlement to offer machines if they do not.”

Rhodes went on to say that the results from the 2018 survey were “extremely disappointing”. The commission has since been working with local authorities to try and improve standards.

The commission is calling upon bars to take the protection of children seriously

As part of these ongoing efforts, additional training has been provided to those working in the bar trade. There have also been efforts to introduce material relating to gambling in the curriculum for those seeking a bar license.

The commission is calling upon bars to take the protection of children seriously. The UKGC wants bars to avoid local authorities taking enforcement action against them. 

New initiative in the works

There has been a positive response from certain bar representatives. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) in the UK is teaming up with the British Hospitality Association for a new initiative to tackle underage gambling that takes place in bars.

The two groups have now published an updated version of the Social Responsibility Charter for Gaming Machines in Pubs. This charter has a code of practice which will help bars meet compliance standards.

Brigid Simmons, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, gave additional reasons as to why bars should enact stricter policies to avoid underage use of gambling machines, including:

Not least because failure to do so could result in action being taken by local authorities to remove gaming machine entitlements.”

Trade bodies are also committing to cooperating with the enforcement and regulatory bodies. They will also be working closely with the UKGC and the GambleAware charity.