There is no doubt that the recent revelations regarding #underagedgambling are socking. Statistics show that there’s an increase in reported issues related to gambling below the legal age.
What’s worse, we are all going about solving this issue the wrong way. We need to move away from blaming cleaver adverts, or money-focused gambling platforms and realise that the issue much deeper than that.
Understanding Underaged Gambling
It is important to understand that the problem isn’t one big problem, it’s several smaller ones that add up. Each one is preventable individually, but can’t and shouldn’t be tackled as one giant issue.
Most “commissioned” reports are misleading and tend to point towards advertising or Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) being the issue. Adverts only work if you were already looking to gamble, and FOBT’s issues don’t apply to online gambling.
Restricting online underage betting
Underage gambling in the UK is a major cause for concern. A few simple preventions might make all the difference. From the perspective of the gambling operators, it’s simple. Create a website that offers all the trappings of gambling, then restricts the use of these services to anyone under 18.
If everyone follows those simple rules, then no problem. The trouble is, they don’t so preventative measures are needed. In other words, proof of ID.
Each new account needs an active email address and a valid credit card in the name of the player/gambler. Which, gets you an active account. This is an account where you cannot withdraw or re-deposit until you can prove your ID.
Driving license, utility bill and or passport is usually required. If none of these things are provided, then the account is closed, and the credit card is refunded.
The flaw in the system
This might look foolproof to most, but it doesn’t stop underage players using parents’ credit cards or fake ID information. This is a problem for the gambling portals because they are powerless to stop it unless the card or ID information is flagged as stolen or misused.
Although this is not the fault of the gambling operator, it is their problem. A problem that the press and government un-helpfully point the finger at.
When a “fake” account is detected, that account is closed and the authorities are informed if there is a serious breach. If however, a parent notices that their card or ID is misused, then the account is suspended and investigated internally. The authorities are not usually notified, but the advice is always given when needed. Read our Parental guide on Protection for minors
The other flaw of this system is software. Regardless of all the clever algorithms and prevention measures that gambling sites have, they can’t detect players that are not mature enough, or responsible enough to gamble.
Legal age not realistic
The minimum legal gambling age is 18. At the age of 18, you are legally allowed to indulge to your heart’s content, which includes gambling, alcohol and everything in between.
This is problem number one because being 18 doesn’t mean that you are a grown-up. It doesn’t mean that you fully understand the impact that gambling can have mentally or financially.
This is a problem for both online and offline betting operators. How do they assess a gambler’s capacity to understand? Simply put, they can’t, so the legal gambling age needs to be raised to 21.
At 21 you are a more rounded individual with 3 years’ experience outside of parental guidance. In other words, a grown-up.
The recent changes to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) include restrictions to advertising that could attract younger players. As of the 1st Feb 2019, no fantasy, comic or cartoon character casino-style games can be displayed.
Likewise, a dedicated campaign to stop the use of pressure words such as “play now”, “bet now”, and “free bet” is underway throughout the online gambling industry. Every Bonus or Free bet has to clearly display T&C’s applicable to that bet or bonus.
Underage Prevention Offline gambling
This is a simple cure. Every person that enters a bookie must be in possession of a valid ID card and proof of address.
Bookies across the country have been slated for the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT), and rightfully so. They have (or at least had) no limit and were not controlled the way that they should have been. This also refers to underage use.
Unless you actually walk to the counter and place a bet, you are more or less left unchecked to head for the FOBT machine. Recent changes to the law regarding FOBT terminals have been set in place.
Lottery is gambling too
To play the lottery you need to be 16+. This includes playing online. A teenager can walk to a counter at Asda or Tesco or one of the others and drop £50 on lottery tickets without a second glance.
Where did they get the cash? Should you be gambling? Do your parents know you gamble? These are all questions that are not asked, yet, this is not seen as problem gambling.
The same is said for scratch cards. There is no limit as to how many you buy as long as you have the cash. No questions asked as to where that cash comes from, or if there is a pre-existing gambling condition. You could be blocked from every online gambling site and every bookie on the high street and still buy scratch cards.
So what’s the solution to Underage Gambling?
The first thing that we need to do is understand that there are two issues. The first issue is preventing minors from gambling, and the second is gambling addiction. One might lead to the other, but they need to be addressed separately.
Gambling operators are focused on preventing liable action rather than gambling prevention. Understandable given how they make money, however, they need to do more. Tougher rules, better security checks and zero tolerance for underage activity.
The Government needs to move away from their misinformed assumption that gambling addiction and gambling prevention are the same.
Preventing a teenager from gambling needs to be addressed at a social level. Schools, parents’ groups, social communities, and social media. In short, they need to educate the parents, teachers and youth leaders.
Gambling addiction is something that comes later. Stop the first issue becoming a thing, and the second will become a thing of the past.
If you need help to stop, then there are several FREE websites and advice centers that can help you put together a sensible plan, or stop completely.