General information on gambling

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What is gambling?

Gambling is taking part in a game where you risk losing something, usually money, in order to win a prize. You won’t always end up with a prize – that wouldn’t be gambling, it would be buying a product or service. Gambling is all down to chance, so you might leave with more or less than you started with, and sometimes nothing at all.

There are many forms of gambling, from card games like poker and blackjack, to sports betting, slot machines, bets with friends and even bingo.

Young people take part in many forms of gambling. The most common types for young people between 11 and 16 are lotteries, scratch cards and slot machines, and making bets or playing cards with friends, with either cash or other items at stake.

Find out more about different types of gambling and how gambling works here.

Legal ages

As a general rule, the minimum legal age for gambling in the UK is 18 years old. This applies to adult gaming centres, betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, racetracks and online gambling. The exceptions to this are the National Lottery and scratch cards – you’re allowed to buy and take part in these from age 16.

Any venue that provides gambling activities with a minimum legal age must stick to rules designed to prevent underage gambling.

However, some gaming machines, such as coin pushers, teddy grabbers and some lower stakes fruit machines in family entertainment centres and amusement arcades don’t have a minimum legal age at all.

These might not seem risky because usually you'll only lose between 2p and £1 in a single game, but it’s easy to keep spending money on change machines. Before you know it you’ve spend twenty pounds on a keyring or cheap toy car. Is it worth it?

Page last reviewed: 04/03/2024

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