UK bookmakers are failing to check the ages of young gamblers using FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals) in their shops claim campaign group 38 Degrees.
The challenge tests found that teenage “mystery shoppers” were able to place bets using the terminals in over 50% of the shops run by some of the UK’s largest gambling chains. The terminals allow users to place single bets as high as £100 on casino games like black jack, bingo and roulette. In the UK it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 years to gamble. Most high street betting shops use the ‘Think 21’ standard to challenge they believe are underage.
The campaign was conducted in fifteen of the UK's most deprived areas and the 'testers' where chosen specifically because they looked young. UK law states it is illegal for anyone under 18 years to enter premises for the purpose of gambling. It is also a criminal offence for operators not to challenge those they believe to be under this age.
The Least Challenging!
The high street chains dominate in this market, so you might think that they would be the most likely companies to challenge youths using the FOBTs. In fact of the 32 William Hill branches tested only 7 challenged the age of the tester. At BetFred 5 of 15 shops asked for proof of age and Ladbroke/Coral made a challenge in only 50% of the 30 shops tested. The best performer, but not by much, was Paddy Power who made the challenge in 13 of their 22 stores.
In total betters collectively lost around £2 billion on these terminals last year and they have the reputation of being very addictive. However, no software is installed on the terminals to check the age of users should the management fail to challenge potentially under-age customers.
Most of the big chains have welcomed the results of the test and are now to conduct their own internal investigations.
Betting using FOBTs is big business in the UK,which is also fueling the growing problem of gambling addiction. The survey does highlight that more care needs to be taken by operators to restrict underage users placing bets. Technology has been developed which can provide ID and age verification at the point of use, so operators need to consider making an upgrade to machines to incorporate this technology.