Faster action required by pub industry to prevent under-18 machine gaming

The Gambling Commission has today called for the UK’s pub industry to take faster action to prevent under-18 year olds accessing gaming machines in pubs.

Its call comes almost most a year after it highlighted failures to stop children playing on 18+ pub gaming machines. It also follows shortly after the British Beer and Pub Association and UKHospitality have jointly published a Social Responsibility Charter for Gaming Machines in Pubs.

In a posting on its website (that can also be downloaded below), the Gambling Commission has said:

A review of pubs in England and Wales has shown that 84% of them are failing to prevent under 18-year-olds from playing Category C gaming machines, also known as fruit machines.

Local authorities have primary responsibility for regulating these machines and businesses are responsible for ensuring that they are compliant in checking age verification.  Over the last 12 months the Gambling Commission has worked with local authorities and local police to test compliance with laws in place to protect children from the risks gambling can pose.

Children are not permitted to play Category C gaming machines in pubs. Staff are expected to stop children playing on the machines and there should be clear signage indicating the age restriction.

This follows a test sample taken in 2018 which found that 88% of pubs in England failed to prevent children accessing 18+ gaming machines.

The findings suggest that the rules in place around these machines are still not being appropriately enforced and many employees are still unaware of the restrictions.

Programme Director, Helen Rhodes said:

“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”,

adding:

“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. The British Beer and Pub Association and UK Hospitality have responded to our call by issuing guidance to their members on the importance of  enforcing the legal requirements. 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.’’

The current pass rate for alcohol sales in pubs is between 70 – 85%.

This call for action by the Gambling Commission coincides with an article in the Morning Advertiser in which outgoing BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds is interviewed as she moves to her new position as Chair of the new Betting & Gaming Council. She is quoted in that article as saying:

The social responsibility codes around who plays gaming machines in pubs are under a bit of scrutiny at the moment with the Gambling Commission. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help with that.

The brewing industry has been at the forefront of social responsibility. We have the billion-unit pledge that took a billion-units out of the alcohol industry and was mainly led by beer and have given a lot of support to Drinkaware.

I have got to create the same things within the gambling industry. I think they’re there but are not as well co-ordinated as in the beer and pub sector. That’s going to be my challenge going forward and will definitely be leaning on best practice that’s been established here.