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London Boroughs not age testing betting shops

Gambling Harm UK has sought information on measures to prevent underage gambling in betting shops. To this end we sent freedom of information requests to all 32 London Borough Councils requesting information on current or past ‘test purchasing’(1) exercises they have carried out in betting shops.

Of the 32, 31 complied with the request, only Hounslow council did not provide the information in the required time for FOI requests. Of those 31, only two, Redbridge, and Waltham Forest currently undertake test purchasing. Redbridge having tested 12 locations in April of this year as part of its yearly testing (all passed), and Waltham Forest having conducted 77 of which 69 passed and 8 failed to prevent a bet being placed by the minor (a failure rate just over 10%).

None of the other councils reported having carried out any test purchasing for at least 5 years and whilst varying reasons were given for this, the overwhelming response from councils was that they undertook testing based on intelligence reports and no complaints had been received. Many councils also mentioned a lack of resources and the need to prioritise other issues.

Protecting young people from the risk of gambling harm is a high priority. One part in achieving this is to restrict access to betting shops, process exists to achieve this, however without a comprehensive system of testing we believe risk remains.

Whilst most councils reported a lack of intelligence reports, we believe that testing should be proactive and not reactive.

Of the two boroughs which did undertake testing whilst one reported a 100% success rate, the other had a failure rate of just over 10%, indicating that some young people are not prevented from gambling, which is illegal below the age of 18 thus opening them up to risk of gambling harm.

(1) In this context test purchasing refers to councils sending in a minor under the age of 18 (such as a police cadet) into a betting shop to attempt to place a bet.


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