UK National Lottery Loophole Allows Children to Gamble

  • Children as young as 16 years old are able to play National Lottery games
  • 16 and 17 year olds in 2017/2018 spent £47m ($59.4m) on these games
  • All other forms of gambling in the UK require people to be 18 years old to take part
  • Politicians are calling for the age to play National Lottery games to be raised to 18 years old
UK National Lottery sign
Though the legal gambling age in the UK is 18, children as young as 16 are allowed to play the National Lottery. Groups are calling on the government to raise the Lottery age to 18. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Inconsistent age limits

Per a report, a loophole allows children as young as 16 years old to gamble online through the UK National Lottery. There are concerns that this will lead to people developing gambling problems from an early age. 

According to the report, 16 and 17 year olds spent a total of £47m ($59.4m) in 2017/2018 on National Lottery games. Two-thirds of this sum was on instant win and scratch card online games such as Treasure Temple, Fruity £500s, and Bingo Millionaire.

those who are at least 16 can legally play National Lottery games

Under United Kingdom law, gambling is usually restricted to those who are at least 18 years old, but those who are at least 16 can legally play National Lottery games. Therefore, the operator of the National Lottery, Camelot, has access to this teenage market. 

Taking action

In an attempt to address the issue of teenagers being able to play these National Lottery games, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on gambling related harm sent a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. 

This letter calls for the minimum age to play lottery games to be increased to 18 years old. Labour MP and member of the APPG Carolyn Harris said: “The lottery is clearly competing with mainstream gambling companies, but they have the advantage of being able to target children.”

It’s surprising…that any gaming platform should have a lower age limit than any other.”

Speaking to the Sunday Times, England’s children’s commissioner Anne Longfield said: “It’s surprising, given the large, worrying and well-established numbers of children who problem gamble, that any gaming platform should have a lower age limit than any other.”

Camelot did respond to these concerns, saying that the minimum age for playing these games should be reviewed at the time of the next license period. The current age limit has been in place for over 25 years.

Problem gambling in youths

Accusations have been levied against the National Lottery that younger people will develop gambling problems as a result of having access to these games. 

An investigation in 2018 by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) found that around 450,000 children between 11 and 16 years old gamble on a regular basis. About 55,000 of them were categorized as being problem gamblers.

Gambling regulators are looking at ways to protect underage people from gambling harm as much as possible via measures like strict advertising controls.