The government crackdown on the gambling sector continues apace. Under the UK government's latest proposals in this sector, the age limit for playing the National Lottery is set to be raised from 16 to 18 from October 2021, with online sales to 16 and 17-year-olds coming to an end even sooner (April 2021).

The government speaks of this as a done-deal, but is still canvassing views on this proposal in the form of a 'call for evidence', which will run for 16 weeks until the end of March 2021.

The government is keen to stress that the National Lottery is not 'gateway to problem gambling' and is low risk. However, it is part of tackling online gaming. It says "Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling."

The wider picture is that the government has promised to undertake a "major and wide-ranging review" of the sector, which is expected to include tighter restrictions on advertising, promotional offers, a ban on betting firms sponsoring football shirts, and tougher rules for online gambling. The Gambling Commission's role and powers will also be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The government's overall aim is to tackle "problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people", and to respond to an industry which it perceives as evolving at breakneck speed.  The government has described the current legislation, introduced under New Labour in 2005-2007 to be "an analogue law in a digital age".

Even before the government gets its teeth into this sector, regulators and trade bodies are falling over themselves to be seen to take action. 

While the various proposals in this sector are enough to secure headlines and column inches, it is less clear whether they will be effective or proportionate ways of achieving the government's stated aims, as the evidence on which they are based seems to be relatively insubstantial.