November 21, 2018 by

How Can Businesses Prevent Underage Gambling?

There are two very serious news items this week, both from the world of land based gambling and both involving real or feared underage gambling.  We at Slots Play Casinos follow both the land based and the online gambling markets even though we primarily cover the online market. 


We feel that the many advantages of online gaming—such as casino bonuses, high return to player rate, no waiting, no travel costs, just to name four— far outweigh the advantages of land based gaming but we pay close attention to both sides of the gaming spectrum.

Underage Gambling in Great Britain

BBC reports a study made by the British Gambling Commission that found that only 10% of pubs in Britain do anything to stop underage people from gambling at their gaming machines.  The people working at the pubs are expected to prevent people under the legal gambling age from playing and gambling at these machines.

Expecting pub workers to be the watchdogs on the premises to prevent underage gambling was probably flawed from the beginning.  First, pub workers are busy doing their own jobs.  They are hired to serve drinks and food to customers, to keep the place clean, and to deal with customers who may have already had too much to drink. 

If the young people playing gambling machines are not demanding any of the workers’ time and are not causing a ruckus, it would seem natural that the workers would leave them alone.  Secondly, pub workers are often very close in age to the underage gaming machine players.  There is likely quite a bit of peer pressure to allow the young people to continue doing what they are doing.  After all, the workers were probably doing the same as underage gamers just a few years before.

Comparison to Alcohol and Tobacco

There are also age restrictions in Britain to alcohol and tobacco consumption and previous reports say that between 70-85% of all establishments that sell tobacco products or alcoholic beverages succeed in preventing their use by underage youths.   This means that pubs are failing to do their job regarding gambling on their premises at a far higher rate than they are failing to prevent underage youth from drinking there.

Machines Lack Signs

The pubs themselves are also to blame in part.  The law states that there are supposed to be signs telling gamers the legal age for using the machines and the penalty for getting caught.  In almost all pubs, these signs are also lacking.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

These findings come as the government continues to talk about when to implement the reduction in the maximum bet allowed at FOBT’s from £100 to £2.  Seems this change would make it even easier for teens to place bets they should be prevented from placing altogether.  The change was originally scheduled to begin in October 2019 but is now set to start in May of next year.

Reactions

Helen Rhodes, Programme Director for the Gambling Commission, said that the commission was “extremely concerned” about the failures of pubs to prevent underage people from playing FOBT’s.  For their part, the Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, Brigid Simmonds, said that the pubs are determined to offer “a safe and friendly environment for families”.

So, if the pubs are to welcome families, how are they to keep the young people from playing FOBT’s.  it would seem that some of the responsibility would be in the hands of the parents who brought the young people to the pub in the first place.

Opponents of FOBT’s in general will likely latch onto this news item and push to make all FOBT’s illegal.

Illinois and Chicago

From the problem of underage gambling in Great Britain, we cross the ocean to the United States and to the city of Chicago.  Video gambling is illegal in the city of Chicago, the largest city by far in the state of Illinois in the U.S. Midwest.  Still, the Chicago area is a lot bigger than the city itself and in the surrounding suburbs video gambling is legal.

There are now about 11,000 video machines spread across the Chicago area in what are being called “little baby casinos”.  If 11,000 new video machines were located in full-scale land based casinos, they would occupy fully nine such casinos.  The small establishments that put in video gambling machines may have 50 or less.  That means that there are already at least 200 such small casinos and this is just the beginning as video gaming became legal in Illinois only in 2012.

These little casinos are getting set up in small businesses such as fast food restaurants.  One such restaurant, a Mexican style fast food place has recently reduced its former menu to just one item because overwhelmingly the people who come into the establishment come to play video gambling machines.  Other small businesses that have put in video gaming machines are truck stops, bars and pubs, pizza restaurants, and general storefront shops.  There are reports that a donut shop has also put in video gaming machines.

The dilemma lawmakers in Illinois face is between the massive amount of new revenue legally being produced by these small “casinos” and the dangers that underage gamers will gamble at them.  Video gambling revenues are up 75% in the past three years and the state of Illinois is desperate to get money any way it can. 

Bars and Pubs

Unlike in Great Britain, where bars and pubs are trying to create a friendly environment for families, bars and pubs in the United States cater almost exclusively to people over the age of 21.  So, there is a lot less fear that underage gamers will play video machines in bars and pubs.  However, that is certainly not the case in restaurants and simple storefront operations.

So, the people of Illinois and the small communities that surround Chicago face the problem of maximizing tax revenue from legal gambling and at the same time preventing young people from accessing these machines.

Illinois also has to assess the balance sheet of revenues generated from all gambling sources.  Even as land based video gambling machines are producing revenues in record numbers, revenues from horse racing, lotteries, and river boat gambling are way down.

One observer has said that the small video gaming machine establishments are the next step in the progression of online gambling from desktop to mobile.  A small local gambling establishment may be more amenable to many mobile gamers because of its nearby location and the extra excitement of gambling among a group of people.

Conclusion

As news, the fear that underage gambling is getting out of hand is very disturbing to the gambling industry generally.  It seems that the laws make it easy for young people to access gambling, especially at small businesses.