Pressure on Pubs regarding pub gaming machines

Viktor Vangelov | Published 24 Oct 2019, 10:29 a.m.

In addition to increased calls to regulate, i.e. ban loot boxes since it is mostly children who purchase them, there is now pressure on pub industry to ensure that no people under 18 will have access to pub gambling machines. And it is not just any pressure, it is pressure from the UK Gambling Commission, so the matter is quite serious. 

Many pubs in England fail to prevent underage gambling

As you surely know, many pubs in England and Wales feature gambling machines, most often Category C gaming machines, popularly called fruities or fruit machines.

A review of pubs in England and Wales has shown that 84% of them are failing to prevent under 18-year-olds from playing Category C gaming machines, also known as fruit machines.

These machines are regulated by local authorities, i.e. it is local authorities that are supposed to ensure the implementation of the rules and that pubs check players’ age before letting them place wagers on fruit machines.

There have been certain indications that pubs don’t always comply with these rules, or to be more precise, not all pubs are compliant in terms of age verification. The Commission, together with local authorities and police worked for a year to check how pubs ensure that all patrons who play fruit machines are above 18.

As you surely already know, children should not be allowed to play fruit machines, which are classified Category C. Pub personnel are supposed to ensure that the patrons who play fruit machines aren’t minors and that it is clearly stated that there is an age restriction.

UKGC will keep on working with all relevant parties

And there is a reason why this issue was brought up and why the Commission decided to act on the matter. A staggering number of pubs in England failed to stop children from placing wagers on gaming machines that should only be available to people older than 18. Namely, according to statistics from last year, a total of 88% of the pubs in England didn’t manage to stop children from placing wagers.

That is a clear indication that the rules aren’t enforced properly and that many pub employees aren’t familiar with the legal framework and their obligations.

The director of the programme, Helen Rhodes said that the industry as a whole needs to take action and make sure that the rules are enforced properly. Namely, pubs need to put similar procedures in place as with alcohol sales and they should be penalised if they fail to do so. In her opinion, pubs that don’t enforce the rules should lose their right to offer fruit machines.

The results were particularly disappointing, she added, and the Commission is set to work together with local authorities and help them train pub staff, familiarise them with their obligations and so on. The pub industry, via its bodies and organisations, such as the Beer and Pub Association have responded positively and have issued guidelines aimed at pub owners and employees.

By comparison, when it comes to alcohol sales, the rate of enforcement is significantly larger, between 70% and 85%.