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Test purchasing and age verification toolkit

We have a rolling test purchasing programme to verify the robustness of gambling businesses controls on underage gambling and we support LAs in their own test purchase operations.

Action to take when operators fail test purchase exercises 

When operators in your area fail you can impose some or all of these premises conditions on them:

  • a Think 21 or Think 25 policy
  • regular test purchasing to be undertaken, to ensure the licensee monitors the effectiveness of their controls
  • use of magnetic locks to restrict access to premises
  • use of an infra-red beam system to alert staff to the presence of customers in age-restricted areas
  • barriers to reduce the risk of children crossing from family entertainment centre premises into adult gaming centre premises
  • re-positioning category D gaming machines away from entrances to adult gaming centre premises, to reduce the attraction of children to those areas
  • induction and refresher training for staff.

Contact your local compliance manager if you are interested in taking part in our test purchase programme.

GLA: Part 36, Compliance and enforcement matters, section 28

Examples of approaches to test purchasing 

Focusing resources and using a third party


East Lindsey has developed an approach to test purchasing which uses the results of test purchasing exercises undertaken by the larger betting operators through the use of a third party.

This allows the council to make best use of their resources by focussing on premises which are not being tested.

Premises in East Lindsey which repeatedly failed test purchase exercises had conditions imposed on their premises licences, including:

  • to maintain a written log of all attempted access by persons under the age of 18 years of age
  • above log to be produced on request to an authorised officer of the licensing authority or the Gambling Commission
  • each entry in the log to be kept for a period minimum of 18 months
  • a written Think 21 Policy
  • for a period of 12 months, the premises will undergo independent monthly test purchases (by a company or organisation approved by the licensing authority) in relation to the Think 21 Policy
  • record shall be kept and maintained of the monthly test purchase operations and those records will be provided on request to an authorised officer of the licensing authority or Gambling Commission
  • record of each monthly test operation to be kept for a minimum period of 18 months. 

Improving age-verification with Citizencard

Wigan Council works with Citizencard in order to promote recognition and acceptance of this alternative method of identification and age verification. The council's logo is incorporated onto the standard application forms and appears on the Citizencard to add further authenticity. 

Citizencard application forms are readily available in public buildings and in premises which sell age-restricted products or provide an age-related service. 

The application forms have also been delivered to bookmakers and gambling establishments to provide staff with the tools to help them advise and assist their customers, remove confrontation, maintain a safe working environment and protect their livelihoods. 

Strict liability of children gambling

Blackpool Council v Stan James (Abingdon) Limited on 1 March 2016

Licensing authorities may be interested in a Local Government Lawyer article written by Philip Kolvin QC, about a case where a district judge considered issues around the criminal liability of a betting operator where a child played a fixed odds betting terminal without challenge. The prosecution had to prove that the operator knew or should have known that the player was underage.

District Judge Brailsford concluded in Blackpool Council v Stan James (Abingdon) Limited on 1 March 2016:

“I have considered the issues very carefully. I have sought to analyse and consider what definition should be given to the word “permit” in circumstances such as these. I am of the clear view that “permit”, here, means “fail to prevent”, not importing any other concepts of “knowingly”, “intentionally”, “recklessly” or the like. Finding the matter to be a strict liability offence does not deprive the Defendant of the opportunity to deny, and to present its case; strict liability is not, without more, guilt. But, on the evidence, arguments and submissions – for which, once again, I express my gratitude to those concerned – I am wholly satisfied that this offence is indeed one of strict liability. Whether the Prosecution can make its case, of course, is an entirely separate issue.”

Approach to test purchasing - England and Wales only

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