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National Strategic Assessment 2020

This report sets out our latest assessment of the issues we face and the risks that gambling poses to consumers and the public

  1. Contents
  2. The person gambling
  3. Underage gambling

Underage gambling

With some limited exceptions, gambling activities regulated under the Gambling Act 2005 are restricted to over 18s. Central to a licensee’s permission to provide facilities for gambling is that they prevent underage access.

For premises-based gambling, test purchasing is one approach by which the Commission or licensing authorities can test the effectiveness of operators’ controls. Operators of licensed gambling premises are required to undertake test-purchasing under agreed methodologies to test ‘Challenge 21’ processes. Data representative of 90% of gambling premises across betting premises and arcades shows sustained improvement with the most recent pre-COVID-19 data indicating that in 9 out of every 10 tests the 18/19yr old test purchaser was challenged to verify their age during their visit. The current rate of 1 in 10 visits resulting in a failure to challenge for ID demonstrates the need for continued vigilance on the part of licensees.

Other locations where children and young people can access gambling continue to present a higher risk of underage gambling. Pre-COVID-19 test purchase activity on access to gaming machines in pubs and betting at racecourses exposed serious weaknesses in controls. Such gambling environments pose a heightened risk due to the ability of under 18s to be in the vicinity of gambling facilities. As these premises reopen following the COVID-19 restrictions it is important that efforts are redoubled to prevent underage access.

Children and young people can be harmed not only by their own gambling, but also by the gambling of family members for example because of neglect or financial harm. There is evidence of intergenerational transfer of risk behaviours with parental problem gambling a strong predictor of problem gambling among children 20.

In Great Britain, children and young people are legally permitted to gamble in limited ways, although most commercial gambling is restricted to over 18-year olds. In overall terms the levels of gambling by children has been falling over time. Our data found that 11% of 11-16-year olds surveyed had spent some of their own money on gambling activities in the last seven days in 2019 21.

The value of this headline figure in informing regulatory risk is undermined as it includes gambling activities which respondents are lawfully permitted to participate in, such as a private bet for money with family or friends (mentioned by 5%) and fruit/ slot machines (4%). The sample size for the 2020 report is smaller as a result of being disrupted by COVID-19 but we are also looking at how this source of evidence can be strengthened further to specifically track prohibited gambling by children and young people as a measurement of licensees’ controls.

GC action

Having strengthened age verification controls for online gambling we will continue to use our compliance and enforcement powers to ensure they are complied with22.We will continue to support those licensing authorities, local police or trading standards who undertake test purchasing in response to heightened risk or as part of their general legal and regulatory oversight.


20 Children and young persons gambling research review, G Valentine, 2016

21Young people and gambling report (opens in new tab)

22 New age and identity verification rules - changes to the LCCP from Tuesday 7 May

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The person gambling - Engaged gamblers who participate in multiple products across different providers
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Gaps in the evidence and understanding of gambling related harms
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