Ministers face backlash over failure to lift age limit of all National Lottery games from 16 to 18

Posted On: 
16th July 2019

Ministers have been criticised after admitting that 16-year-olds could still be able to gamble on some National Lottery games.

Government rules could lift the age on scratchards, but not on the National Lottery
Credit: 
PA Images

Culture minister Mims Davies said the minimum age limit will be increased to 18 for instant win scratchcards and online games.

But she said the Government wanted the public's views on a "differentiated approach" which would keep the limit at 16 for draw-based games, such as Lotto tickets.

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That led to an angry backlash from Tory and Labour MPs, who said no one should be able to gamble until they are 18.

In a Commons statement, Ms Davies said: “The age of 18 is widely recognised as the age when one becomes an adult, gaining full citizenship rights and responsibilities and at present all lotteries can be played from 16 – one of the very few age limits for gambling under 18 products.

"So in addition to the option to raise the minimum age to 18 for all National Lottery games and retaining the current limit of 16, I am also seeking views on a differentiated approach that would increase the minimum age for instant win games only, this includes scratch cards and online instant win games.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said another consultation was not needed and that in the face of a gambling addiction “epidemic” the decision to raise the minimum age should be “simple”.

“There are 450,000 children gambling in this country every week, it’s a number that has quadrupled in recent years,” he said.

“For many young people, scratch cards are a gateway to gambling from the age of 16. We don’t think that’s right, particularly when we are struggling with an epidemic of gambling addiction across the country.

“Gambling is fun, but it can also be dangerous when it is poorly regulated and it gets out of control for an individual, and in my view, and the Labour party’s view, there is absolutely no need for a consultation on this issue.”

“It’s our strong view… that we already have all the evidence we need. To gamble you should be an adult, so the minimum age for all gambling products you should be 18. It’s as simple as that."

'GET ON WITH IT'

Former Tory leader and Cabinet minister Ian Duncan Smith also hit out at the announcement, saying: “I do completely agree that here is no need for a consultation about the age limit.

“Frankly we should just get on with it, I think there is enough evidence out there.”

His Tory colleague, Sir Desmond Swayne added: “Given its tendency to be habit-forming, the later it can be put off until the better, and certainly gambling shouldn’t begin before adulthood should it?”

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan added: "I appreciate and welcome the consultation to the lift the minimum ages of playing the National Lottery to 18.

"I do not think that the Government should be differentiating between lotto and scratchcards. It should be 18 for all”.

Ms Davies' announcement comes months after she told PoliticsHome's sister title, The House Magazine, that ministers were looking to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from buying scratch cards.

The Government also confirmed that it was increasing the maximum draw prize from its current limit of £400,000 to £500,000.

Charles Ritchie from Gambling With Lives, the charity formed by families bereaved by gambling related suicide welcomed the Government's review into lifting the minimum age limit.

"The evidence is very clear that the younger age that people start gambling the more likely they are to develop serious gambling addiction," he said.