Should the National Lottery be an 18 and over only product?

  • Updated
  • By Hannah Timoney
Lottery Age Restriction

Despite the legal age for gambling at online casino sites being 18, 16 and 17 year olds can legally participate in the National Lottery and purchase scratch cards. Following a report last month from the House of Lords Gambling Select Committee entitled ‘Gambling Harm - Time for Action’ talks are in the works about raising the minimum for playing the National Lottery to 18, to be in line with gambling restrictions in casinos and bookmakers.

Figures in the report showed that 200,000 16-17 year olds regularly play the lottery or buy scratch cards. Furthermore, 55,000 children who have been found to have a gambling problem started off by playing the lottery legally, under the age of 18. 

Tory MP Tracey Crouch, former Minister for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) tried to no avail to raise the age limit to 18 two years ago, citing the link between ‘legal youth gambling and adult gambling problems’, a conclusion supported by Dr. Steve Sharman who works at the East London University School of Psychology.

The age limit for buying these National Lottery products has been 16 for the past 25 years now, should this proposed change come into effect, this will remain the case until at least 2023. Though the current licence to run the National Lottery is due to expire, Camelot has been granted an extension of 6 months. 

The Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies, stated that while "The National Lottery raises vast sums for good causes, and society lotteries play a vital role in supporting local charities and grassroots organisations…"

"We also need to make sure that the National Lottery is fair and safe. That is why we are looking to raise the minimum age for instant win games so children and young people are protected."

Along with raising awareness on gambling addiction, and protecting minors from legal gambling at an early age, the Government announced it will raise the society lotteries’ annual sales limit to £50 million, increasing the money able to be raised for good causes. So far, society lotteries, such as those run by charities, the Health Lottery, and People’s Postcode Lottery, raise around £300 million a year for beneficial causes.

As the rest of the industry is facing heavier regulation all the time, the fact that raising the age barrier for the lottery to the legal gambling age is only just being considered it yet another point in favour of stricter lottery regulation. As of yet, the lottery has been getting a free pass to expose teenagers to gambling, with many people not considering the lottery to be 'proper gambling.'  

While children need to be protected from potentially harmful practices, such as gambling and drinking, at the age of 16, minors are gaining more freedom and independence. Should there be more education on the lottery, and the possibility of developing a gambling addiction, or should the age limit be raised? Is education not a better preventative measure than impotent age restrictions?