What Is Gambling?

Gambling is when you risk money (or something of value) in a game or a bet in the hope of winning money or a prize. 

There are lots of different types of gambling and you may not immediately realise some activities are gambling. The Gambling Act 2005 sets out how gambling is regulated in Great Britain and it covers arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, gaming machines, society lotteries, and online gambling. 

For most gambling activities, the legal age is 18. However, there are some which do not have age restrictions, like playing a toy grabber game in the hope of catching a prize or making a bet with one of your friends about something. 


If you have been to the seaside with your family then you will most probably have seen family entertainment centres, most commonly known as amusement arcades, which contain a wide range of machines.  There are 1,000 family entertainment centres in the UK, commonly located at seaside resorts, in airports and at motorway service stations, and these cater for families, including unaccompanied children. 

Children and young people are permitted to enter a family entertainment centre and may use category D machines (e.g crane grab machines or coin pusher machines). They cannot use category C machines (e.g. fruit machines) and it is a requirement that there must be clear segregation between the two types of machine, to prevent under-18 access. 


No one under the age of 18 is allowed to bet with a licensed gambling business. 

The most common form of betting is fixed odds betting where you bet a stake to win a fixed amount calculated by the odds available. For example, a £10 bet at odds of 2/1 would return £30 (£20 of winnings + £10 stake) if successful. If unsuccessful you lose your £10 stake. Bets can be placed online, in betting shops or on racecourses. The most popular things to bet on are sporting events such as the Grand National or football matches.  


Although the law does not prevent under 18s from entering bingo clubs, the industry generally chooses to apply a no under 18s policy. Under 18s are allowed in licensed commercial bingo clubs but they must not take part in playing bingo or any other forms of gambling whilst on the premises. 
Under-18’s are only allowed to participate in bingo activities if it is fundraising for charity by charging a participation fee.  


No one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter a casino. 
Casino games are available online or in casino premises.  Most casinos offer a variety of games, such as roulette, poker and blackjack.  


A lottery is a type of gambling game in which people buy numbered tickets. Several numbers are then chosen, and the people who have those numbers on their tickets win a prize. 

The legal age to play the National Lottery is 16 years old, but this will be raised to 18 from April 2021 for online sales and October 2021 for offline sales. You also have to be 18 years old to play society lotteries, customer lotteries and local authority lotteries.  
Raffles, tombola’s and sweepstakes are all types of lottery and there is no minimum age requirement for these activities. Lotteries can only be run for good causes and cannot be run for commercial or private gain. 

Gaming machines

Most gaming machines are of the reel-based type, also known as fruit, slot or jackpot machines. Gaming machines fall into categories depending on the maximum stake and prize available. There is a minimum age of 18 for all players for all category A, B and C machines. Staff are expected to stop children playing on the machines and there should be clear signage indicating the age restriction. 

At the end of June 2018, the Gambling Commission made a series of commitments to protect children from the dangers of gambling, including looking at how children are exposed to it, the online risks of it and improving education around gambling. 


Esports is a term used to describe competitive video gaming. It is different from standard video gaming in that Esports is competitive (human-vs-human) and usually has an engaging spectator element to it, like traditional sports. 

Just like other sports, you can bet on a team or on individual player who you think will win a particular tournament or match. Many of the big gambling operators now offer opportunities to bet on Esports and like other forms of betting, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to bet with a licensed gambling business. 

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Further Gaming Advice


This section provides information on what parents need to know about gambling.


Educating parents around what gambling-related harm is and how it can impact young people’s lives.


Providing advice to parents on how to spot the signs of harm and how to talk to your children about gambling.