Tests on a sample of pubs in England indicated almost 90% failed to prevent children accessing gaming machines meant for those over 18.
The Gambling Commission worked with licensing authorities and local police to test compliance with laws in place to protect children from the risks gambling can pose.
Children are not permitted to play Category C gaming machines in pubs. Staff are expected to stop children playing on the machines and there should be clear signage indicating the age restriction.
The current failure rate of 89% compared to an average failure rate of 15% to 30% for other age restricted products such as alcohol or tobacco. According to the sample of pubs examined, there was no significant variation between licensing authorities nor between [large] pub companies and independents. The commission said the results were “uniformly poor”.
Announcing the results at the Institute of Licensing National Conference on 14 November, Helen Rhodes, programme director at the Gambling Commission, 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.”
“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 Gambling Commission has written a letter to the trade calling on those responsible to “work together” to address the access and exposure of gambling machines to young people and children.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “We are committed to keeping the pub a safe and friendly environment for families, so we take these interim findings very seriously.
“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 licensees 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.”
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls added: “Underage play on gaming machines in pubs is wholly unacceptable. Our members, and the wider pub sector, understand this and the issue is taken very seriously.
“UKHospitality is already working with its members and other trade bodies to develop a social responsibility charter, with bespoke pub-specific messaging; highlighting responsible gaming and the prevention of underage play. We will also be writing to the Gambling Commission to seek a meeting at the earliest opportunity.”