Nine out of 10 pubs in England are routinely allowing children to play age-restricted fruit machines, the gambling industry regulator has said.
The Gambling Commission has written to several pub trade associations demanding that they clean up their act after an undercover operation revealed that most were making no effort to prevent children from using the machines.
The commission’s enforcement chief said the preliminary findings of the operation were “sufficiently concerning that we consider it to be in the public interest to release them immediately”.
Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who led the successful campaign to slash stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), said: “Children growing up thinking feeding coins into a high-stakes machine is acceptable can progress to problems in adulthood. We legislate to stop underage drinking but ignore underage gambling.”
In 61 tests carried out by staff from local licensing authorities, trading standards and volunteer police officers, pubs’ failure rate to enforce age restrictions on fruit machines was 89%. The rate did not vary significantly between regions, nor between large pub companies and smaller ones.