A victory for common sense. That’s how Stuart Reddish, the President of the National Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) described a recent government U-turn that will mean 16 year old checkout staff will still be able to sell lottery tickets.
The move comes in the wake of new legislation introduced last year that increased the minimum age for purchasing a lottery ticket from 16 to 18. The change was uncontroversial, but the problematical part was that the rule was also to be applied to selling lottery tickets as well as buying them.
A rite of passage
This particular age group is an essential part of convenience store staff, especially at key times and during the weekend when staff sells lottery tickets before the Saturday lottery draws, says Emma Davis from NoDepositExplorer. Indeed, having a job in a newsagents, supermarket or fuel filling station is something of a rite of passage in British culture. It’s an opportunity for 16 year olds to have their first taste of financial freedom, even if it’s just a weekend job where they work eight or ten hours a week for a low salary.
Of course, shops like these also sell other products that 16 year olds in the UK cannot legally purchase, such as cigarettes and alcohol. However, this has never precluded youngsters from selling them as part of their employment duties.
The new rules
The new legislation came about following a lengthy consultation period that was first set in motion as part of the UK’s gambling review in 2018. Conclusions and actions were further delayed by broader global events last year.
18 is the standard minimum age in the UK for conventional gambling, such as playing casino games or betting on sport. Lottery products, which include conventional lottery tickets and instant win products (ie scratchcards), have traditionally been seen as lower risk, which is why the minimum age was set at 16 when they were introduced in the UK in 1994.
But 27 years is a long time. The portfolio of games available today is very different to 1994, and in the consultation following the review, several possibilities were mooted. The government’s preference was to leave the minimum age for lottery ticket purchases at 16 but to increase the age for scratchcard purchases to 18, as these carry a slightly higher risk profile.
That option, however, was strongly opposed by the retailer bodies and the lottery organizations, both of whom were against the idea of splitting the minimum age across different products in the portfolio. They felt it would add unnecessary complexity and confusion for both sales staff and customers.
This left the government with two options – to do nothing or to increase the minimum age across the board. The former was never realistically going to happen, so sure enough, the age limit increased and gambling on the lottery is now subject to the same age restrictions as other forms of gambling.
One of the most attractive aspects to the lottery is that everyone has an equal chance of winning. Inevitably, that means the UK has seen its share of teenage lottery millionaires. However, as long ago as 2003, questions were being asked as to whether kids of 16 and 17 were really equipped to handle such a win. Callie Rogers is the youngest ever winner, and is a case in point. She was 16 when she won a £1.9 million jackpot and she says the money destroyed her life.
Now a 33 year old mother of four, she squandered the money on cosmetic surgery, holidays and cars. She also says she spent £250,000 on class-A drugs and has now hit the headlines again for driving offences resulting in a suspended license and a curfew. She told Closer magazine: “It was too much money for someone so young. It changes your life, and not for the better.”
Callie’s story is not unique. Another 16 year old winner, Callum Fitzpatrick from Northern Ireland was found dead in June, aged just 23, and is believed to have taken his own life. A third teenage winner, Jane Park, has even threatened to sue lottery operator Camelot for negligence, saying it was irresponsible to allow someone so young to win so much.
Of course, there are teenage winners who have used or invested their winnings shrewdly, too. However, it is tales of tragedy like those of Callie, Callum and Jane that inevitably hit the headlines, and so the change in legislation was in some ways inevitable. Now that the changes have been further revised and clarified, teenage life can return to some semblance of normality. Teenagers looking for a cash windfall can work to achieve it the hard way, selling lottery products as opposed to buying them.