Are underage winners a problem for marketers?

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A teenager who won £1.9m on the lotto says that it was a ‘curse’ and that under 18s should be banned from playing whilst a government minister recently announced that the National Lottery age limit could rise from 16 to 18 years of age to protect the young and vulnerable. Most prize promotions are limited to over 18s so should the National Lottery follow suit too?

Callie Rogers was aged 16 and the youngest ever lotter winner in Britain when she won back in 2003. Since then she revealed that her spending spree of plastic surgery, fast cars and holidays was “too much for someone so young”. This is the view that Mims Davies, Civil Society minister agrees with following a consultation into raising the minimum age limit for all National Lottery games from to 18 in 2020, bringing it into line with the nationally recognised age of adulthood.

The minimum legal age for gambling is 18 in the UK – this applies to racetracks, betting shops, bingo halls casinos and online gambling. The only exceptions are the National Lottery and football pools – which allow over 16s, and low stakes machines such as the ones in family amusement arcades which are open to anyone.

Prize promotions within limits

In our world of prize draws and competitions, we have to be very careful to ensure promotions are compliant and in line with different laws or rules, and also that they are ethically fair. In the UK there is no legal age limit for promoters, but most tend to be restricted to over 18s. This is simply because it would be irresponsible for a child to win a large sum of cash or a car for instance. To award a prize only suitable for an adult to a child is careless and can lead to disappointment or negative press.

The issue of data protection also looms heavily over promotions open to under 18s. Handling the data of a minor requires parental consent which complicates things even further. We have run promotions that are aimed at minors – for instance to win your family a holiday or to be a mascot at a Premier League football match – but these instances are carefully planned to ensure only child-friendly prizes are offered and that Terms and Conditions include parental consent.

What are the Rules?

When it comes to marketing the CAP Code, the rulebook by which the Advertising Standards Authority regulate the UK advertising industry devotes the whole of Chapter 5 to children. Whilst it does not specifically outlaw marketing to under 18s, but it does foster a sense of responsibility towards children and recommends that “care should be taken”. Rule 5.6.1 requires that promotions directed at children must make it clear that adult permission is required if a prize or an incentive might cause conflict e.g. concert tickets or holidays. Other rules include not exploiting children’s susceptibility to charity promotions and also not exaggerating the value of a prize or the chances of winning it.

So back to the National Lottery – Camelot has said it has no issue with the age limit review and we would also agree that raising it to 18 would be a sensible thing to do. The legal gambling age is set at over 18 for a genuine reason – gambling is highly addictive, and the consequences can be devastating – especially when the prize is worth millions of pounds. Just as promoters limit their entrants responsibly, it makes sense to limit the national lottery from being awarded to children. For help with running promotions or marketing law anywhere in the world contact +44 203 325 6000 or email info@promoveritas.com.

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