The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has revealed that almost 90% of pubs in the UK fail to stop children from gambling on their premises.
The Gambling Commission discovered the figures after launching an investigation and licensing local authorities to check whether pubs were following UK law.
Anyone under the age of 18 is forbidden from playing Category C gaming machines in pubs and staff members are expected to prevent them from using the machines. In addition, pubs should also provide clear signage to indicate the age restriction.
Helen Rhodes, Programme Director at the UK Gambling Commission, announced the news at the Institute of Licensing National Conference on Thursday (November 15).
She said: “We are extremely concerned that pubs across England are failing to stop children playing gaming machines designed for adults.
“We urgently call on the pub sector to take action immediately to enforce the laws in place to protect children and young people.”
She added: “We expect to see significant improvement in further tests and will continue to work with licensing authorities to support any action required against those failing to adhere to the requirements.”
The UK Gambling Commission’s report claims that the 89% fail rate, sampled across various pubs, is high compared to 15% to 30% fail rate for other age-restricted products such as alcohol or tobacco.
The watchdog has also written to the British Beer and Pub Association today, outlining the Commission’s findings and calling for improvements.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has said it too the findings “very seriously”.
Brigid Simmonds, the Chief Executive of the BBPA, said in a statement that pubs should offer a “safe and friendly environment” for families.
She said: “We have ensured that all of our members are aware of both the BBPA’s and Gambling Commission’s codes of practice and we are already taking steps to develop a social charter for responsible gambling, for use by licenses and pub companies.
“However, given the importance of this issue, we are seeking urgent meetings with the Gambling Commission and local authorities to ensure appropriate action is taken.”
The news comes amid an uproar over gambling ads aired during live sporting events that have been accused of targeting the vulnerable including children.
The Church of England, the owner of Coral and Ladbroke as well as the Labour party have all backed a ban on gambling ads aired during live sporting events and before the 9 PM watershed.
Just this month UK broadcaster Sky TV vowed to limit the number of gambling ads to one per commercial break in order to tackle the growing number of problem gamblers. Meanwhile, leading charity GambleAware announced that it had partnered up with the NHS to open a gambling addiction clinic in Leeds in 2019 to tackle problem gambling.