Underage Gambling Laws in the UK

Under the Gambling Act 2005, the majority of gambling activities are only permitted for those 18 years or older, except for a few exceptions. The UKGC mandates that casinos implement policies to prevent underage gambling, with a focus on safeguarding children. These policies should include measures such as:

  • Verifying the age of customers who seem to be, or are suspected of being, underage.
  • Avoid making gambling establishments or activities attractive to kids and young people through youth-related culture or marketing.
  • In adult-only establishments, denying service when an adult is accompanied by a baby, child, or young person.

Individuals under the age of 18 cannot work in any role related to gambling activities within bingo establishments. Children under the age of 16 can’t work at all during bingo gaming hours. However, young persons aged 16 and 17 can be employed in bingo premises as long as their duties do not involve gaming or gaming machines while bingo is being played.
Children and young adults can enter bingo establishments. However, they’re not allowed to play bingo.

Underage Gambling Statistics

A report from the Gambling Commission reveals the gambling trends among 11 to 16 year olds. The report highlights that the most common gambling activities among children often fall outside the direct regulatory control of the Gambling Commission. These activities include bets among friends, parents buying lottery scratch cards, and playing fruit machines in pubs.

Activities With the Highest Engagement Rates

Key Facts

  • Among 11-16-year-olds, 58% have come across gambling ads or sponsorships, and 7% of them said these ads encouraged them to gamble even when they hadn’t planned to.
  • 14% of children aged 11-16 used their money for gambling in the past week.
  • In the past year, 39% of 11-16 year olds spent their money on gambling.
  • 60% of young people believe their parents would rather they abstain from gambling entirely.
  • 19% said their parents had set strict gambling rules with no room for negotiation.
  • 1.7% of 11-16-year-olds are categorised as “problem gamblers,” and 2.2% are labelled as “at risk.”

Consequences of Underage Gambling

Underage gambling comes with a number of negative consequences, impacting both individuals and society as a whole. In this section, we’ll explore 7 significant effects that arise when young individuals gamble before they reach the legal age.

  1. Emotional Distress: Problematic gambling can lead to issues like low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, and depression.
  2. Addiction: Similar to drugs and alcohol, compulsive or uncontrollable gambling can result in an addiction.
  3. Relationship Strain: Underage gambling can have adverse effects on relationships with family and friends, as lying and deceit become a habit.
  4. Impact on Education: Gambling at an early age can distract from academic obligations, resulting in poor academic performance.
  5. Changes in Behaviour: Gambling can impact a youngster’s mind, leading to reduced focus, impaired decision-making abilities, heightened irritability, and issues with impulse control.
  6. Thefts: Since gambling often involves wagering money, many teenagers lack the necessary funds, which may push them to steal money from their parents or guardians.
  7. Legal Issues: Underage gambling is prohibited in the UK, and individuals who are apprehended may be subject to fines, legal penalties, or potential criminal charges.

How Can Parents Prevent Underage Gambling?

With online gaming and betting becoming more accessible to young people, it’s essential for parents to stay informed and take action to protect their children from the negative effects of gambling. Below, we’ll provide practical advice to help you protect your kids from the potential harms of gambling.

1. Set Up a Control App

It may be quite impossible to prevent your child from accessing the internet. Also, online ads always popping up on mobile devices can tempt minors to click them out of curiosity. One of the ways to encourage healthy screen time is to watch what they do online and use tools that could block websites or apps that could lead to gambling problems.

You can use your internet provider’s parental controls or get software like Net Nanny and Kaspersky Safe Kids. These tools help you set restrictions, receive alerts for questionable content exposure, and block specific websites. In the UK, Gamstop is a commonly used tool for blocking access to online casino services.

2. Education and Open Communication

Begin by initiating open and honest discussions about gambling with your children. Share information about the possible risks and outcomes, such as financial problems and addiction. Even if they don’t share right away, having patient and supportive conversations can help them avoid trouble. Create an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their concerns and seeking help when needed.

3. Lead by Example

Children often mimic the behaviour of their parents. Show responsible financial management and decision-making to be a positive example for your children.

4. Seek Professional Help

If you suspect your child may have a gambling problem, consider seeking professional assistance from therapists, counsellors, or support groups specialising in gambling addiction.

5. Be Aware of Warning Signs

Keep an eye out for any symptoms of gambling-related disorders in your child, such as sudden changes in behaviour, excessive secrecy, or financial difficulties.

Ways Online Casinos Prevent Underage Gambling

Online casinos have laid down procedures to help combat underage gambling. Some of these are:

Age Verification

The UKGC mandates that all online casinos are required to verify the age of new users before allowing them to make a deposit and place a bet. Players must provide personal information, including their date of birth, which is cross-checked against official databases to verify their age.

Identity Verification

This process is known as KYC (Know Your Customer). Players may need to submit identification documents, such as driver’s licenses or passports, to confirm their age and identity. This helps betting sites know who their customers are and can prevent illegal activities. It’s used to limit activities like fraud and money laundering.

Educational Resources

Online casinos provide educational materials about responsible gambling and the risks associated with underage gambling. This information is often available on their websites.

Proactive Monitoring

Online casinos may employ systems to monitor player behaviour and identify potential underage gamblers. Unusual or suspicious activity can trigger further age verification processes.

Signs of Gambling in Children

Here’s a list of signs that your child may be engaging in online gambling, purchasing scratchcards, or lottery tickets:

  • Secrecy and Privacy – Your child becomes more secretive about their online activities, especially regarding their smartphone or computer usage.
  • Decline in Academic Performance – A noticeable drop in school grades and academic performance.
  • Change in Screen Time – A significant increase in screen time, particularly on devices used for gambling or gaming.
  • Interest in Gambling or Lotteries – You might notice your child frequently talking about gambling or lotteries, showing an unusual interest in gambling odds, or frequently checking lottery results.
  • Withdrawal from Family – Reduced engagement with family members and avoiding interactions with parents or siblings.
  • Financial Issues – Your child consistently asks for money without a clear or legitimate reason, even though they have their own allowance or income.

CSGO and Underage Gambling

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has sparked a gambling scene based on in-game skins, where people bet these items on various websites. A recent report reveals that over 70% of those who gamble with CS: GO skins began when they were under 18 years old.

About 93% of kids dedicate 12 hours or more per week to playing video games, which shows that gaming is a widespread activity. Gambling can begin with loot boxes or player packs, which are common elements in video games that entice kids to spend extra money to obtain better weapons, rare characters, power, or famous players.

What was once a straightforward purchase has now become a gamble, potentially leading a minor to gambling addiction. Additionally, underage gambling can originate from skin gambling, where 1 in 10 UK adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 gamble real money using virtual items they’ve acquired through in-game purchases or rewards.

Where to Seek Help if Your Child is Addicted to Gambling

When a child is struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s crucial to seek help and support. Here are some resources to consider:

  1. Gamblers Anonymus
  2. GamSTOP
  3. GamCare
  4. GambleAware

1. Gamblers Anonymous

GA is a self-help group for individuals who are addicted to gambling. GA meetings are held in various locations, offering support and a structured recovery program.

2. GamSTOP

GamSTOP is a self-exclusion program aimed at promoting responsible gambling and helping individuals with gambling problems in the UK.

3. GamCare

GamCare is an organisation that primarily assists adults dealing with gambling problems but indirectly combats underage gambling. They do this by providing educational materials to schools and youth organisations, raising awareness among young individuals about the dangers of gambling. They also offer advice and support for parents concerned about their children’s gambling habits.

4. GambleAware

This charity has acquired expertise in educating and assisting individuals with gambling problems. They consistently enhance their programs through partnerships with institutions such as the NHS.

A Safer Future: Closing Thoughts on Underage Gambling

Gambling can be safe if done right. To ensure you abide by the law, always confirm the legal age required to participate in the gambling activity you’re interested in. Additionally, as a parent, you should monitor the activities of your children and ensure they have no access to betting sites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you gamble at 16 in the UK?

The legal gambling age in the UK is 18. However, there are exceptions. Individuals aged 16 are allowed to participate in some gambling activities such as Football Pools, National Lottery, and some non-commercial betting. Remember that although these forms of gambling are allowed for 16-year-olds, they can be risky, so it’s important to gamble responsibly.

Can you gamble under 18 in the UK?

In most cases, the minimum legal age for gambling in the UK is 18. You can gamble at 16 for specific activities like the National Lottery and football pools. However, for most other types of gambling, including sports betting and casinos, you need to be 18 or older. Always ensure you know and follow the age requirements for each type of gambling.

What happens if you get caught gambling under 18 in the UK?

Gambling under 18 in the UK can lead to trouble if caught. You might have to pay fines or face other legal consequences since it’s against the law. If you were gambling in an online casino, your account could be closed, and you could lose your funds. They may also put your name on a blacklist, which can stop you from gambling in the future, even when you’re older.

What documents are required to verify a player’s identity?

To verify your casino account, the common documents requested are:

Proof of ID – Passport, ID card, or Driver’s license. This is to confirm a player’s identity with a photo.

Proof of address – Utility bill, rental agreement

Proof of payment method – A bank statement and pictures of your bank card

Selfie – The casino may request a selfie where you’re holding your photo ID to confirm that it matches your physical appearance.

Note: Additional documentation may be required for more extensive verification or to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

What are the consequences of providing services to underage users?

Providing gambling services to underage gamblers has serious consequences. It can lead to fines, losing the casino’s license, and a damaged reputation. In some cases, individuals involved in providing gambling services to minors may face criminal charges.