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UK Bookmakers Improve Underage Gambling Controls

7th December 2009 10:34 am GMT

As part of a rolling programme of nationwide test purchases to determine whether adequate and effective controls are in place to prevent underage gambling, the UK Gambling Commission has said that 65% of the 160 betting shops most recently visited prevented a young person under eighteen from placing a bet, a vast improvement on results earlier this year when nearly all the premises visited failed a similar exercise.

The Commission said that while the results show there is still plenty of work to be done, the five major betting operators in the UK, accounting for 80% of betting shops, have made "considerable progress".

Of the total 160 betting shops visited, Ladbrokes was found to be the most effective in preventing underage gambling with 74% of its retail outlets passing the test. Second was William Hill at 68% followed by Tote at 63% and Betfred at 60%. Underage test purchases at Gala Coral stores were stopped at 57% of locations, the worst performance of the major operators.

The Commission said that it would meet the betting operators this week to discuss the detailed results and how they plan to secure the further improvements needed. The rolling programme of test purchase visits will continue as part of the Commission's ongoing compliance programme.

The exercise also covered initial visits to a small sample of medium and smaller betting operators in England and Wales that make up 20% of the total number of betting shops. The results were poor with only 35% of betting shops visited preventing someone underage from betting at the counter.

The Commission, working with local councils, will also meet with those operators whose shops were visited to secure immediate improvement plans. In addition the Commission will be holding specific local events, commencing early next year, for all smaller operators to discuss compliance under the Gambling Act 2005.

"The Commission is pleased that operators have responded rapidly to the action we took earlier this year," said Nick Tofiluk, Director of Regulation at the Commission. "However young people under 18 are not permitted to gamble; there must be no let up in the effort to improve. Test purchase exercises, by both the Commission and licensing authorities, will continue."

The test purchase exercises use underage volunteers, with parental consent, to assess whether effective controls are in place to prevent underage gambling. In May of this year, the exercise found that in 98% of premises visited, a young person under 18 years of age was allowed to place a bet at the counter.

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