Children will be banned from betting on fruit machines in an industry agreement designed to ward off draconian legislation.
In a victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign to curb child gambling, arcade owners will take action to stop unaccompanied under-16s from using the slots.
Fruit machines that have a maximum stake of 10p and a payout of up to £5 per spin are the most common route into gambling for children according to industry watchdog, the Gambling Commission.
Children will be banned from betting on fruit machines in an industry agreement designed to ward off draconian legislation
Until now children could legally play on the slot machines without an adult present.
Campaigners and MPs, who welcomed the new rules, have highlighted the similarity between fruit machines and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
This year the maximum stake for FOBTs was cut from £100 to £2 to help tackle problem gambling.
Under the voluntary scheme for fruit machines, launched by the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (Bacta), arcade owners will take responsibility for stopping children betting.
Stickers explaining the new rules will be placed on the coin-operated fruit machines to inform customers of the rule change.
Children under 16 will be able to play if they are with someone who is 18 or older, even if it is not a relative or guardian. If they are alone they will be asked to show ID.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling related harm, said: ‘I very much welcome this move by Bacta members. They have to do something, and I’m glad that they’ve acted independently.
‘I expect a commitment that this is properly monitored so that no further action is needed. We must make sure any risks to children are minimised.’
Liz Ritchie, from the charity Gambling with Lives, set up by families affected by gambling-related suicide, said: ‘Evidence shows that addiction is more likely if gambling starts young.’
She said many people who became hooked started by playing arcade fruit machines.
‘This is a positive step, but it needs to be backed up by regulation and health warnings about the danger to life from gambling addiction,’ she added.
Fruit machines are found in amusement arcades, pubs and in other leisure locations such as camp sites.
These ‘category D’ machines also include penny pushers, crane grab machines and ticket redemption games, but they will be unaffected by the scheme.
In a victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign to curb child gambling, arcade owners will take action to stop unaccompanied under-16s from using the slots
The rules are voluntary and will be taken up by around 30 per cent of arcades around the country .
Bacta believes others will feel pressure to follow suit and if the trial this summer is successful then Bacta will add the rules to its code of conduct, forcing all arcade owners to comply.
Around 75 Bacta members voted unanimously in favour of the changes at an extraordinary general meeting this month.
Arcades are choosing to self-regulate because of concerns that if legislation were passed, it would be unwieldy and could affect other games, such as penny pushers.
John White, chief executive of Bacta, said he hoped ‘voluntary action’ would ward off regulation.
He said: ‘We absolutely take on board the concerns people have raised about it. We want to do the right thing because legislation can go all sorts of ways.’