The National Lottery is exposing teenagers to gambling

  • Updated
  • By Max Wright
Teens playing The National Lottery

Unlike all other forms of gambling, National Lottery games can be played by people under the age of 18. New figures released by the Gambling Commission have shown that children aged 16 and 17 are getting into gambling this way, as they spent a huge £47 million in 2017-18.

It’s not just the weekly lottery draw with jackpots of over £1 million that’s driving teens to gamble their pocket money though, as over half of the money under 18s spent on gambling went on scratch cards and instant win games instead. 

By visiting the national lottery website, 16 and 17 year olds can buy scratch cards and play instant win games on their phone. Games include digital scratch cards and luck-based video games, with stakes between £1 and £5. The site closely mimics the feeling of playing on a mobile casino site, even down to the deposit limits and self exclusion features, except it can be played by under 18s.

The spending limit for National Lottery games is £350 a week, which is a huge amount to lose for someone who can’t even legally enter a casino for another 2 years. In July last year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport released plans to increase the minimum age for National Lottery games to 18, however nothing has changed after more than a year.

These regulated Lottery games aren’t the only way children are being exposed to gambling. Even arcades full of games for children of all ages can contain elements of gambling, and in some cases even full blown slot machines where children are allowed to gamble for cash prizes.

The ongoing debate about randomised loot boxes’ regulation as gambling has no end in sight either, meaning children of all ages can spend real money for a chance at getting a virtual item of no real value. Loot Boxes also have the added peer pressure that comes with in-game cosmetic items, as children may feel like they need the best skins and weapons to fit in with their friends.

So, why are we not doing more to protect children from being exposed to gambling especially considering public perception of the gambling industry is worsening? Well, the Gambling Commission's figures suggest that, from a purely data-driven perspective, there isn't a problem.

After conducting a study into children and gambling in 2019, the results showed that although 36% of 11-16 year old say that they had gambled in the past year, that number had actually dropped from 39% the year before. Had the study revealed an increase in children gambling year on year, the Commission would surely have to step in and take action.