News item

Crackdown on under-age gambling in Milton Keynes

A recent blitz on gambling premises in Milton Keynes showed that half of them were failing in their duty to prevent young people from getting involved in under-age gambling.

The 10 premises - which included betting shops and arcades - were visited by the council’s Regulatory Unit, working jointly with the Gaming Commission and 16 year old volunteers.

Three premises fell foul of the law by allowing the volunteers to place bets, whilst the remaining two allowed the under-age teens to enter and remain inside the premises, without being approached and checked for their age or identification.

The tests followed on from licence inspections of all such gambling licensed premises in the borough earlier in the year, aimed at ensuring that appropriate procedures were in place.

Karen Ford, Head of the Council’s Regulatory Unit, said: “This was a disappointing result for the businesses involved but they have all made a commitment to improve staff training and to implement measures such as self testing and the sharing of good practice. We will continue to monitor these and others to ensure the safety of children and young persons in Milton Keynes.”

Muriel Scott, Acting Director of Public Health added: ‘It is critical that we prevent young and vulnerable people from taking part in any type of activity where they may not be in the best position to make a proper, educated choice. In the worst case scenario, where such activity becomes habit and then addiction, this can have a catastrophic effect on someone’s health and wellbeing, as well as the people around them.”

Added Ms Ford: “With the recession affecting people’s income a quick fix, lottery or betting win can be an attractive way of resolving money worries.

“But gambling is a form of entertainment - and should not be relied upon as a short cut to making money.

“Most people with a gambling problem don't stop when they have a big win, they just spend the money to place more bets until it has all gone. When they lose money, they chase the next win and become unable to control the amount of money they spend on betting.”

With the anticipated opening of the new Aspers Casino in Milton Keynes later this year, the officers have recently begun a rolling program of test purchases on gaming premises. The purpose of the program is to examine the operation of controls in place to prevent under-age gambling and therefore improve the protection given to children and young persons in Milton Keynes.

Nigel Hartland, General Manager for Aspers Casino said:“As a group we take our responsibilities to our local communities very seriously. The company is committed to ensuring that young persons are protected and all Aspers premises and facilities are designed for adults to provide an appropriate customer experience to enjoy gaming, dining, bars and entertainment safely and in comfort.

“Aspers operates a challenge 21 policy and anyone who appears under the age of 21 is required to produce photographic identification in order to gain entry to the premises.

“As part of our licence application we donated £250,000 to MK Council to invest in positive gambling and harm minimization research, and we look forward to building on this relationship and continuing to work closely with the council to ensure Aspers continues to be a positive contributor to the local community and MK life.”

• Children and young persons aged under 18 years of age are not permitted to enter a premises with a betting licence, they are not allowed to place a bet or to use a gaming machines. If you are concerned about a business in Milton Keynes who is allowing underage sales, please report it to the council by calling 08454 04 05 06.

• Licensing officers visited all premises with a gambling licence last year (37) and as part of the visit their procedures and licensing conditions regarding under 18’s were inspected. During December 2012 officers then carried out a further 13 checks on premises specifically advising on underage sales, 10 of which were then visited as part of this operation. During this visit they were advised that we would follow up the visit with an underage volunteer test purchase.

• If you are struggling with debt as a result of a loan shark, please report this immediately and anonymously on 0300 555 2222.

Jim Reynolds, Compliance Manager at the Gambling Commission, said: "We were very pleased to provide support and expertise to our partners at Milton Keynes Council.

"Licensed gambling operators must have effective policies and procedures in place to prevent under age gambling." 

Ends

DATE: 9 May 2013