National Lottery Age Limit Raised as UK Gambling Act Review Begins

  • DCMS has launched its Gambling Act review, which could see sweeping changes to legislation
  • DCMS introduced the new age limit due to a shift toward online and instant win games
  • The limit will be fully in effect starting October 2021; online sales will stop in April
  • The review will focus on a number of areas, including advertising and loot boxes
  • Industry representatives have welcomed the process but called for an evidence-led approach
The National Lottery logo on phone screen in pocket
The UK government has decided to increase the minimum age to play the National Lottery from 16 to 18. [Image:]

The first act of reform

The UK government will raise the minimum age for playing the National Lottery from 16 to 18 next year. The measure is the first regulatory reform to be confirmed as the government begins its review of the Gambling Act 2005.

make sure the National Lottery is not a gateway to problem gambling”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has outlined its reasoning for the age limit increase, describing a growing trend toward online play and instant win games like scratch cards. UK Minister for Sport, Tourism, and Heritage Nigel Huddleston said the measure will “make sure the National Lottery is not a gateway to problem gambling.”

After a consultation, the DCMS has decided the new law will go into effect in October 2021. Online sales to those under the age of 18 will stop in April next year. A spokesperson for Camelot, the current National Lottery operator, said the company “fully supports” the decision.

The Gambling Act 2005 review

The UK government established the region’s current gambling legislation in 2005. The DCMS is now leading a review of that legislation, which will examine how “gambling has changed over the past 15 years.” Many have predicted the review will result in significant changes to the UK gambling market.

As part of the process, the DCMS is running a 16-week call for evidence until March 2021. The government body announced the launch of the review on its Twitter page on Tuesday morning:

MPs will consider a number of subjects during the process, including the introduction of stake limits for online gambling, possible curtails of gambling advertising in sports, and the issue of loot boxes. The review will also assess the UK Gambling Commission’s role and efficacy as a market regulator.

In a statement on the UK government website, Julian Knight, chair of the DCMS, said he believed the review could help “re-balance” the odds between gamblers and operators. According to Knight, the market has seen increasing dominance of online gaming as well as artificial intelligence usage. As a result, the DCMS chair called for “greater transparency” in the algorithms used by gambling companies.

Industry response to the review

Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher welcomed the review but urged the government to ensure an “evidence-led” approach. Additionally, he warned that drastic changes could drive people towards the unregulated black market. Dugher detailed the “huge economic contribution” made by the betting industry, including more than £3.2bn ($4.28bn) in annual tax.

urged the government to ensure an “evidence-led” approach

William Hill CEO Ulrik Bengtsson released a similar statement regarding the review. The executive also called for an “evidence-led” approach, referring to the progress already made by the industry in customer protection. He said he looked forward to engaging with the government during the process to ensure any reform worked alongside measures already in place.

Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission’s response detailed the work already done to “protect players and the public” since the agency’s formation in 2005. Among the progress referred to by Neil McArthur, CEO of the commission, was the strengthening of age identity verification, new guidance for VIP schemes, and a ban on credit card use at gambling sites.

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