The UK Gambling Commission is calling for the pub industry to increase the action they’re taking to prevent under-18s from accessing gaming machines in pubs across the region.
This call comes after a review of pubs in England and Wales showed 84% failing to stop underaged individuals from accessing Category C gaming machines, most commonly known as fruit machines. These are machines with a maximum stake of just £1 and a maximum prize payout of £100. The UKGC conducted the review on a total of 170 pubs across England and Wales.
UKGC Program Director Helen Rhodes has this to say: “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.”
A similar study was also conducted last year, wherein it was found that 88% of pubs in England failed to prevent underaged individuals from accessing 18+ gaming machines. These study results clearly suggest that the rules put in place concerning fruit machines are still not being enforced appropriately, and many pub employees may not even be aware of the restrictions. Compared to the extremely low compliance to regulations covering these machines, the pass rate for alcohol sales in pubs is currently between 70% and 85%. This is based on the report by Serve Legal.
In the call for increased action, the UK Gambling Commission stressed that local authorities are primarily responsible for regulating 18+ gaming machines, while the establishments are responsible for ensuring compliance in terms of age verification. Pub staff are expected to stop children from playing on the machines, and pubs are expected to have a clear signage indicating the age restriction.
Rhodes further said: “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 emphasize 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,” Rhodes added.
The UKGC is not responsible for regulating gambling machines pubs, as pubs are allowed to place gaming machines on-site as part of their alcohol licence, which is granted by their respective local Licensing Authorities. It is the LA’s responsibility to make sure that the pubs comply with the law.
Over the last 12 months, the UK Gambling Commission has worked with local authorities, including the local police, to test compliance with laws in place to protect children from the risks gambling can pose.