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The Government’s Gambling Review is a golden opportunity to crack down further on betting by under-18s

BGC have also introduced tough new measures aimed at further preventing under-18s from being able to view betting adverts online | Credit: PA Images

Michael Dugher, CEO | Betting And Gaming Council

5 min read Partner content

The Government’s long-awaited Gambling Review is now just days away, and at the Betting and Gaming Council we are eager for it to begin.

As we approach our first anniversary, we can look back with some pride on what we have achieved in terms of improving standards in our industry, but we are keenly aware that there is much more for us to do.

The Review is a golden opportunity to further drive change, and already there are signs that ministers share our determination to do so.

According to a recent article in the Sunday Times, the Review will close the loophole that currently allows 16 and 17-year-olds to play the National Lottery while the rest of the regulated betting and gaming industry adheres to a strict over-18s only policy.

BGC members have a zero tolerance approach to betting by under-18s, so this is something I would very much welcome. It’s an anomaly that children are rightly banned from entering betting shops and casinos, but are allowed to buy a Lottery tickets and scratch cards or play one of their online games.

Closing this loophole would bring the Lottery into line with Betting and Gaming Council members, each of whom has a zero tolerance approach to gambling by under-18s.

Indeed, the number one pledge in our list of safer gambling commitments is to “prevent underage gambling and protect young people”.

Earlier this year, we put our money where our mouth is by announcing a £10m programme to deliver independent gambling awareness education to every 11 to 19-year-old in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Delivered by the YGAM and GamCare charities, it will help ensure 5.5 million young people have the information they need to inform the decisions they make in later life.

Meanwhile, we have also introduced tough new measures aimed at further preventing under-18s from being able to view betting adverts online.

Since 1 October, BGC members have had to ensure that all sponsored or paid for social media ads must be targeted at over-25s unless the website is able to prove they can only be viewed by over-18s.

YouTube users must also sign in to age-verified accounts in order to see betting ads, while our members also have to post frequent responsible gambling messages on their Twitter accounts.

Online ID and age verification checks have also led to the closure of thousands of betting accounts.

Meanwhile, the whistle to whistle ban on TV betting ads during live sport before 9pm has reduced the number seen by children by 97 per cent. Longer term gambling advertising trends show that children’s exposure to them fell from a peak of 4.4 TV ads per week in 2013 to 2.5 per week last year.

And writing for the BGC website last month, Jenni Garratt of compliance experts Serve Legal set out the huge strides that betting shops have made in preventing under-18s from being able to visit their premises.

A decade ago, 67 per cent of bookies passed Serve Legal’s age verification spot checks. Now, that figure is 91 per cent with the ultimate aim of increasing that to 100 per cent.

“We know from speaking with the BGC and its members that shop staff have immense pride when they have been given a pass, and take it personally if they get a fail, working hard to make sure it never happens again,” Jenni wrote.

“The reason for this success is straightforward. By constantly testing, and then re-testing those who fail, it means staff in betting shops are always focused on this vital part of their work, and are stopping under-18s from gambling before they have even crossed the threshold.”

These are all examples of how the BGC and its members are taking real, tangible steps to prevent under-18s from using their products. So it’s encouraging that the Government is as eager as we are to tackle this issue head-on in the Gambling Review.

How we can better protect young people ought to be a big priority for the Government’s Gambling Review when it gets underway. 

It also demonstrates the importance of the BGC’s drive to improve standards throughout our industry.

It’s worth remembering, for example, that our industry has been the only funder of research, education and treatment of problem gambling in the last 20 years, including a commitment to spend £100 million in this area over the next four years.

Rather than simply wait for politicians to introduce new regulations, we have been taking a range of steps to tackle problem gambling while not spoiling the enjoying of the vast majority of the 30 million British people who enjoy a flutter every year perfectly safely.

Striking that balance, and not driving punters into the arms of the illegal black market, is the challenge the Government faces and we look forward to working with them as the Review progresses.

Ministers also need to be aware of the huge economic contribution that betting and gaming makes as the public purse comes under pressure like never before.

In normal times, £3bn a year flows to the Treasury in tax and duties from our industry, which also employs around 100,000 people.

With the ongoing ban on spectators, sports such as horse racing, snooker, rugby league and football are more reliant than ever on the vital income that our industry provides.

Plans to stop under-18s betting on the National Lottery would be a welcome step.

How we can better protect young people ought to be a big priority for the Government’s Gambling Review when it gets underway. 

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