Monday, 30 Mar 2020

National Lottery Scratchcards minimum age set to rise to 18 – with a huge catch

The minimum age for playing National Lottery scratchcards is set to rise from 16 to 18 under government plans announced today.

Lotto "instant win" tickets will only be sold to adults if a government consultation gets its way – bringing them in line with alcohol and cigarettes.

But Tory ministers have sparked a storm after saying the main National Lottery game could be left open to 16-year-olds.

MPs criticised the announcement, which came despite previous hints by top Tories that the age would rise overall.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said Britain is suffering an "epidemic of gambling addiction" and "gambling is fun but it can also be dangerous".

He told the House of Commons: "We already have all the evidence we need. To gamble you should be an adult – so the minimum age for all gambling products should be 18."

Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith agreed there was "no need" for a consultation on raising the age limit, telling ministers: "Frankly we should just get on with it."

Fellow Tory Desmond Swayne said: "Gambling shouldn't begin before adulthood, should it?".

And SNP MP Ronnie Cowan fumed: "It should be 18 for all”.

Ms Davies told MPs the National Lottery gave "£2bn a year to good causes in this country" and formed the "backbone of giving in the UK".

But she said the age of 18 is "widely recognised" as the age that one "becomes an adult".

The shake-up would end an exception for Lotto scratchcards under gambling laws, which say most games’ players must be 18 or over.

Callie Rogers, who was the youngest jackpot winner aged 16, told how she sank into depression after blowing her £1.9million win in 2003 on drugs, booze and cosmetic surgery.

Looking back on the saga in 2013  she said: "Even if you say your life won't change, it does – and often not for the better."

The announcement comes after Tory ministers repeatedly signalled they wanted to raise the minimum age for the game.

In May 2018 Tracey Crouch, the then-sport minister, said she was “considering the issue” ahead of the lottery’s licence being renewed in 2023.

After she resigned in a row over fixed-odds betting machines, he replacement Mims Davies said in February: "We need to be very clear that gambling starts at 18.

"It’s not to stop people from having fun, but it’s to protect those most vulnerable people.

"That’s where the government needs to step in."

But it is not yet confirmed whether Boris Johnson will back the shake-up, which has been announced days before he is due to become Prime Minister.

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