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Thursday, February 26, 1998 Published at 05:44 GMT


Lottery linked to under-age gambling
image: [ 40% of under-16s questioned admitted playing National Lottery ]
40% of under-16s questioned admitted playing National Lottery

The national lottery operator Camelot is being ordered to take action to reduce the illegal sales of tickets and scratchcards after new research linked them to compulsive under-age gambling.

BBC's Charles Carroll reports on the risks that gambling poses to youngsters (3'05")
The study by the lottery watchdog, Oflot, found that 5% of youngsters under the age of 16 had a gambling problem, while 2% were obsessed with scratchcards.

[ image: Two children in 100 have problems with scratchcards]
Two children in 100 have problems with scratchcards
Of 10,000 children aged between 12 and 15 interviewed, just under half had bought Instants scratchcards and 40% had gambled on the online National Lottery game. Sales of both are banned to under-16s.

Oflot's Acting Director-General John Stoker said the results were disappointing, showing no reduction in the number of illegal sales since the last research two years ago.

"Tougher action needed"

"The suggestion that 2% of the under-16s surveyed show signs of problem gambling behaviour linked to scratchcards is particularly disturbing," he said.

"Camelot has to shoulder its responsibilities, as do retailers and parents.

[ image: Many have called for age limit for National Lottery to be raised to 18]
Many have called for age limit for National Lottery to be raised to 18
"Past initiatives, including telephone hotlines and joint test purchasing programmes with Trading Standards officers, have heightened public awareness, but more is needed to make an impact on the reduction of under-age sales."

Mr Stoker called on Camelot to introduce measures including more test purchasing, tougher action against retailers caught selling to children and closer monitoring of the problem.

Fruit machines still favourites

The research, commissioned by Oflot, and carried out at schools in England and Wales by gambling expert Dr Sue Fisher, from Plymouth University, was hailed as the "largest and most comprehensive survey" of young people and gambling yet undertaken in the UK.

Researchers defined "problem" gambling as behaviour which damaged or disrupted "family, personal or recreational pursuits".

They found fruit machines were the most popular form of gambling, being played by 75% of children in the survey, and the game favoured by 3% of the "problem" gamblers.

[ image: Camelot says under-age gambling problems are not confined to the national lottery]
Camelot says under-age gambling problems are not confined to the national lottery
A further 1% had a problem with scratchcards and 1% with both scratchcards and fruit machines.

However, scratchcard problems were more likely to be associated with games operated by companies other than Camelot - even though it has a 90% share of the scratchcard market.

A Camelot spokeswoman said the company believed it had the "most rigorous controls in the lottery industry" on under-age sales.

She added that the research "highlighted that this is a problem facing many sectors and not limited to the national lottery".

"Raise age limit"

The Methodist Church said the results showed the need for a review of gambling regulation including age limits, advertising policies and the impact of technological change. It also called for the age limit for playing the lottery to be raised from 16 to 18.

Dr Emanuel Moran, Chairman of the National Council on Gambling, said he had repeatedly raised his concerns about the effect of the lottery on children.

In 1995 he carried out a survey in one London school which revealed that two-thirds of under 16s were buying lottery tickets and scratch cards.

"The first step is to raise the age limit to 18," he said. "Youngsters cannot get into betting shops until they are 18, why should they be able to buy lottery tickets?"


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