Punters in the UK are provided with many different ways to test their luck in the hope of raking in big winnings. From sports betting, football pools, to buying national lottery tickets, there’s little cause for the British gambler to complain about a lack of choice. However, one thing punters in the UK need to know is that they’ll have to reach a certain age before being able to legally bet and gamble.
What Age Do People Need to Be?
In addition to UK punters having a range of different ways to gamble, these gambling methods have varied minimum ages of legality.
|Category of Gambling||Age Restriction|
Sports betting is probably one of the most popular methods of online gambling, reflected by the range of betting sites people can choose from. Add into the equation the range of sports available for which people can test their luck and knowledge and it’s clear that sports betting has everything needed to appeal to a mass population. However, whilst a mass population might feel enticed by sports betting, age restrictions are in place, preventing those aged under 18 from legally betting online or in betting shops on the high street.
Physical casinos prevent customers aged under 18 from entering the premises and, likewise, online casino sites prevent those under the age of 18 from registering accounts with them or placing any real money wagers. Customers hoping to play online casino games such as slots and roulette must wait until becoming 18 before they can do so.
For many years the legal age to buy national lottery tickets was 16 but following a review of the 2005 Gambling Act in late 2020 it was announced that the legal age would change to 18, and on the 22nd of April 2021 this change was officially rolled out and has remained in place ever since.
The most common mode of football pools betting is where players predict and pick 10, 11 or 12 football games from an offered fixture list to finish as draws where both teams score. Players attain points based on the accuracy of their predictions, with the player having the most points winning the prize pot or, if tied, leading players share the pot.
Its popularity has declined over the years, mainly due to competitors such as the National Lottery, but the 16+ age limit might entice a new generation of punters in light of the age limit of the lottery being raised.
How Can Ages Be Checked?
Bookmakers can defend themselves from being convicted of any charges related to servicing underage punters by following the 2005 Gambling Act guidelines and hence by “taking all reasonable steps to determine the individual’s age” and having enough evidence to believe that a customer isn’t a child.
As a result, many online betting companies require customers to prove their age and identity in order to show that they’re of a legal betting age. Often a customer’s betting account will be restricted (they would not be able to withdraw any winnings, for instance) until a document proving their identity is provided, with companies usually requesting that customers show at least one of the documents listed below:
- Customer’s passport
- Customer’s photo card driving licence
- Household bill in customer’s name
- National ID card with customer’s name and photograph
- Credit/debit card in customer’s name
- Recent bank statement in customer’s name
What Are the Punishments?
Outlined in the gambling act of 2005 are a variety of different gambling-related offences and punishments relating to underage gambling. Listed below are just some of these offences and their attached punishments.
|Underage person gambling where not permitted||£1,000|
|Employment of underage person to provide gambling services||51 weeks prison sentence and/or £5,000 fine|
|Cheating, or assisting someone to cheat a gambling||51 weeks prison sentence and/or £5,000 fine|
The listed offences will be up to the justice system to investigate and reprimand, but one punishment not listed above that bookmakers might initiate themselves without a court hearing is to withhold a customer’s gambling winnings should it be believed that the customer is underage.
All in all, underage betting is prohibited in the eyes of the law, and people that attempt to bet whilst under 18 years of age put themselves at risk of a lengthy prison sentence, or a fine that would be likely to nullify whatever profits they had attained from an illicit winning bet. Based on these punishments, it’s clear that underage bets just aren’t worth placing.
Of course, it is also an offence for betting companies to knowingly accept bets from people who are underage, but given the tight regulation of gambling companies by the UK Gambling Commission, it is very unlikely any betting firms or online casinos would risk taking on customers they knew were under 18 years of age. If they did, they could expect hefty fines and perhaps the suspension or revocation of their gambling license.
Legal Betting Ages in Other Countries
Different countries have different attitudes to gambling, reflected in the variations of minimum ages to bet within these countries. Listed below are just some of the legal gambling age limits in other countries, with some being similar and others different to the UK’s age limit.
|Country||Legal Gambling Age|
|Canada||Largely 19, although 18 in some provinces|
|USA||18-21, age varies depending on state|
Countries Where Betting Is Illegal
Whilst people in most countries have to wait to reach a certain age before being able to bet legally, some countries don’t allow anyone in the population, regardless of their age, to place bets at all. Instead they have complete bans on gambling. Listed below are just some of the countries where the act of betting is completely prohibited.
- North Korea
- United Arab Emirates
British people aged under 18 longing to place an online bet and counting down the days they turn 18, can look at the above list of countries, and consider themselves fortunate that waiting for their 18th birthday is all they need to do to bet legally. Some people in certain countries have no option but to hope that one day their government decides that the time is right to finally legalise gambling.
In fact, it wasn’t until the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1960 that off-course gambling in person became legal in the UK, meaning the current batch of under-18s can look towards their British elders for insight about a time when legal gambling wasn’t an option for any age, and then these young Brits can realise how lucky they are that they just need to wait.