UK Lawmakers Discussing Raising National Lottery Minimum Age to 18

  • A report showed that over 200,000 teens age 16 and 17 regularly buy National Lottery products
  • An increase in the legal gambling age has garnered support from industry and medical groups
  • The minimum gambling age change is seen as a way to protect children from gambling harm  
National Lottery sign
An increase in youth gambling has prompted UK lawmakers to discuss raising the National Lottery minimum age from 16 to 18. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Raising the legal age to gamble

Ministers are responding to an increase in youth gambling by working to change the gambling age in the United Kingdom to 18. The move is not slated to occur until 2023.

over 200,000 teens ages 16 and 17 are regularly playing the Lotto

Data has shown that over 200,000 teens ages 16 and 17 are regularly playing the Lotto and buy scratchcards. The end goal of the new age limit is to slow problem gambling among young people.

Support for age limit restrictions on youth gambling

The effort to change the legal gambling age has found support in individuals as well as industry groups. Clean Up Gambling, an organization that feels gambling is out of control in the UK and wants to see current laws tightened, wants to see the government continue with a comprehensive gambling review of the industry as quickly as possible.

Clean Up Gambling supports the age change, posting its feelings on Twitter:

Clean Up Gambling campaigner Matt Zarb-Cousin commented on the issue of youth gambling, saying: “The younger you start gambling the more likely you are to fall into addiction. All gambling should be restricted to 18 and over.”

Medical professionals are also in support of the change. Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr. Frank Atherton, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and the European Lotto for Betting Association, have all come out in support.

Nigel Railton, the head of National Lottery operator Camelot, is also in agreement with the consideration for an age change. Railton said that the age limit has been 16 for 25 years, so now is probably a good time to review it.

Sweeping Reform

In early July, the House of Lords Select Committee on Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry issued a special report calling for urgent reforms to the UK’s gambling industry. The nearly 200-page report included 66 recommendations, the central of which was youth gambling and an increase in the minimum gambling age.

The section regarding children spanned 23 pages and advised that the minimum gambling age be changed from 16 to 18. The report also suggested that the age for online gambling be raised to 18.

Inconsistent limits on age restrictions

A loophole in regulations allows kids as young as 16 to gamble via the National Lottery online. Teens aged 16 and 17 wagered £47m ($59.4m) in 2017/2018 on the games provided by the National Lottery. Of that amount, two-thirds was spent online on instant win and scratch card games.

Because of this, the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group sent Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden a letter calling for the minimum age to be raised.

The National Lottery has been accused of leading younger people to develop gambling problems due to access to its games. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) released findings from a 2018 investigation that showed around 450,000 kids ages 11 to 16 took part in regular gambling. Around 55,000 of that number were considered problem gamblers.