The GB Gambling Commission called for pubs across England and Wales to take further action to keep under-18s from using gaming machines of Category C after a study found that 84 percent had failed to prevent betting of those underage.
British law specifies that anyone under the age of 18 is not allowed to play these so-called fruit machines in bars, and staff are expected to stop them from doing so. There should also be a signage inside the pub that indicates these rules.
Over the past 12 months, however, the GC has been working with local authorities and police to check compliance with existing laws to protect children from the risks that gambling may pose, finding that the majority did not comply.
This followed a 2018 test sample that found that 88% of pubs in England were unable to prevent children from accessing gaming machines. As such, the GC said the system rules are not yet being properly enforced and many workers are not aware of the restrictions.
GC programme director Helen Rhodes explained: “The pub industry must accelerate action to enforce these rules. Pubs must take age verification on machines as seriously as they do for alcohol sales, and they risk losing their entitlement to offer machines if they do not.
“The results last year were extremely disappointing and we have supported local authorities in their action to raise standards. This includes working with the providers of training to the pub industry to emphasise the legal requirements in training materials, as well as with the Home Office to work towards including materials on gambling in pubs in the curriculum for the personal licence holder course.
“We urge the pub sector to respond to this opportunity to protect children and young people and to prevent the need for local authorities to take enforcement action.”
Through joining forces on a new initiative to combat underage betting in pubs, the British Beer and Pub Association, the body that represents breweries and pub businesses in the UK, and the trade association UK Hospitality responded to the call.
The two groups have joined forces to collaborate with their members to create a revised Gaming Machines Charter for Social Responsibility in Pubs. The Charter contains a Code of Practice to facilitate cooperation and training in order to discourage underage gambling.
Core principles include sector-wide cooperation to help address underage betting, as well as providing staff support to ensure that they know and meet their legal responsibilities.
Trade bodies will also collaborate with regulatory and enforcement agencies as well as work with the GC and GambleAware problem gambling charity to address the issue.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “It is important for pubs to ensure that their gaming machines are not used by those under-age. Not least because failure to do so could result in action being taken by local authorities to remove gaming machine entitlements, when they offer both entertainment and much needed additional revenue for overtaxed pubs.”
UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Gaming machines are a vital revenue stream in pubs and many customers enjoy gambling responsibly when they go to the pub. There can be no room for underage gambling, though, and we need to ensure that standards on this issue are as high as they are in every other aspect of pubs.”