Underage Gambling Laws

Underage Gambling Laws

by September 22, 2014 0 comments

This September, a new gambling act came into force to try to tackle underage gambling, amongst other issues. What is gambling and why do we need laws to regulate it?

What is gambling?

Gambling is when you voluntarily risk money on the outcome of a game for the chance of winning money or prizes.

Some of the better known forms of gambling are card games, bingo and slot machines.

There are many reasons why people enjoy gambling however gambling can become a habit with terrible effects. More recently people are also able to gamble through TV, mobile phones, telephones and on line. Many feel that the ability to gamble easily from home, using credit or debit cards can lead to a harmful addiction with gambling.

People who gamble responsibly realize that gambling is for fun and that they are very unlikely to win over a long period of time.

Underage gambling

In order to gamble on line you must be 18 years old or over. However a research study carried out this year by the children’s charity NCH showed that out of 37 on line gambling sites, only seven stopped a 16 year old from registering details with them.

One of the causes of the problem is that under 18s can own a debit card, and these can be used to register on line accounts. There is no way of telling the applicant’s age. To own a credit card you must be 18 or over so credit card registrations are easier to regulate.

The results of this study were one of the factors that prompted the government to review the gambling laws. This September the laws were changed to better protect young people under 18.

How is gambling regulated?

The Gambling Act of 2005 is designed to oversee almost all types of gambling from betting in a casino and even to bingo. The Act is managed by an organization called The Gambling Commission who can fine people, take away gambling licences and take people to court for not following the proper rules.

There are around 1500 special officials in the UK whose job it is to inspect premises where gambling is taking place and make sure that the laws are being followed.

Changes to the law: Gambling premises

  • Under 18’s are now not allowed to go into casinos at all, even with an adult. Most casinos will now check id.
  • Under 18’s can go into bingo halls or family entertainment centres but not all centres will let you in and some may also have areas where under 18’s cannot go.
  • For the first time casinos will now be able to advertise, but must not target under 18s in their advertising.
  • Under 16’s cannot buy lottery tickets and you may be asked for ID.
  •  Slot machines are now not allowed in places where children can use them

Changes to the law: Remote gambling

These under 18 laws also apply to remote gambling – that includes on line, with a telephone or through interactive TV.

To gamble remotely it is necessary to register and the new laws state that operators must:-

  • Advise you that underage gambling is an offence,
  • Require you to confirm that you are old enough to gamble legally, and
  •  Take action to verify your age.

The law states that when registering with anything but a credit card and operator mow has to re check your age. Under the new law no one can be paid any winnings until their age is checked. If you are later found to be underage, your account will be closed. The money you gambled, or ‘stakes’ will be returned to you, but you will not be paid any winnings.

To further protect you, gambling internet sites must allow for filtering software to be used, for example by parents or schools. Sites must also carry out regular credit checks, and make sure that staff are properly trained in age verification.


Many are concerned that the law doesn’t go far enough to target underage gambling. For example children will still be able to use fruit machines in arcades.

Speaking on BBC Radio Captain Dean Pallant, of the Salvation Army recently commented, “They are low-stakes fruit machines, but still putting the money in and getting a reward is not a good behaviour to encourage.”

In addition there may be on line sites that work from abroad, and are not so easily regulated by the Gambling Commission.

If you have any worries about gambling there’s a helpine you can call GamCare on 0845 6000 133. You can also talk to someone on line.

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