UK Betting Shops Ace ‘Secret Bettor’ Age Verification Test

Posted on: August 26, 2021, 09:27h. 

Last updated on: August 26, 2021, 01:12h.

UK betting shops outperformed supermarkets and convenience stores in secret shopper tests this week, researchers said this week. These tests examined how often clerks verified the ages of gambles.

betting shops
Men wait outside a betting shop in the UK, above. Twelve years ago, a disturbing 98 percent of betting shops in the UK failed age verification spot checks. (Image: Racing Post)

Ninety percent of betting outlets demanded proof of age when visited by teenagers asking to place a bet, according to tests conducted by age verification analyst Serve Legal.

That’s compared to 83 percent of convenience stores, 77 percent of supermarkets, and 76 percent of gas station convenience stores whose staff demanded to see ID when underaged shoppers tried to buy alcohol.

The legal age to drink and gamble in the UK is 18. But staff in betting shops are routinely told to check anyone who appears to be under 21.

Call It Progress

While campaigners will want to know why ten percent of betting shops still allowed underaged customers to place a bet unchallenged, the numbers represent a marked improvement in bookmakers’ age-verification checks over previous years.

In 2017, The Times reported 65 out of 108 shops run by some of the largest gambling chains had allowed secret shoppers who were under 18 to use fixed-odds betting terminals.

The situation was even direr in 2009 when spot checks conducted by the UK Gambling Commission found that 98 of 100 outlets visited allowed a 17-year-old to place a bet. The commission called the findings “disturbing” and summoned senior executives from the nation’s biggest gambling companies to explain themselves.

“By any measure, age verification standards have improved since they were first introduced, and once again, betting shops are leading the retail sector in terms of compliance,” said Michael Dugher, chief executive of British standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), in a statement.

Underage Gambling Rates Rising

A 2019 study identified gambling among children in the UK as a “growing problem,” finding that two-fifths of 11- to 16-year-olds had gambled in the previous year.

The study by the University of Bristol found that just over 50 percent of all 17-year-olds residents in the UK regularly engaged in some form of gambling activity.

Slot machines were the most popular, followed by playing cards for money with friends and buying lottery scratch-offs.

The UK government is currently undertaking a review of the country’s gambling laws, which is expected to result in tighter controls on the industry. One measure anticipated is a ban on gambling advertising in sports, which critics say normalizes betting for young people.