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The UK is unusual in allowing a number of gambling products to be legally used by people under the age of 18. That includes the National Lottery and National Lottery scratchcards, low stake/low prize Category D gambling machines, coin push machines, and crane grab machines.

In a study just reported, 1,052 adult UK gamblers aged 18 – 40 were asked to recall how frequently (never, rarely, occasionally, frequently, very frequently) they had taken part in each of those five forms of gambling under the age of 18, legally (i.e. aged 16 or 17 in the case of national lottery products, and at any age below 18 for the others). In the case of each form of gambling, simply having ever done so (which ranged from 54% for Category D fruit machines to 93% for coin push machines) was not related to later problem gambling. But the recalled frequency of engagement was. Higher levels of recollected legal youth engagement with each of the five products was robustly associated with increased risk of adult disordered gambling as assessed by the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI).

These results are consistent with previous results on early exposure to gambling and subsequent gambling-related harm, and are very relevant to recent government proposals to increase the legal age for National Lottery scratchcards to 18. The law should go further. Arguably, there should be a minimum age of 18 years for all gambling, consistent with the general message that gambling is dangerous for children and young people. Even the Gambling Review Body of 2001, which recommended wide ranging liberalisation of gambling legislation, thought allowing British children to play low stake/low prize gambling machines was inconsistent with the principles that should govern modern gambling regulation.


Newall, P. W. S., Russell, A. M. T., Sharman, S., & Walasek, L. (2020, March 17). Frequency of engagement with legal UK youth gambling products is associated with adult disordered gambling.

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