Can You Bet On Sports That Involve Players Under 18s?
The world of betting is a complicated and occasional contradictory one. As an example of this, you need look no further than the rules around young people and sports. At the time of writing, it is perfectly legal for you to place a bet on a player aged under 18 to score in a professional football match, but it is seen as somehow wrong to place a wager on an Under-18s game. There is an obvious contradiction in that, but in terms of protecting young people it does make perfect sense to not allow people to place a bet on their matches.
The theory, such as it is, is that if a player is good enough to play for a first-team then they are mature enough not to be waylaid by any outside influences. On the other hand, those that are playing in leagues specifically aimed at the Under-18s should not have such external pressures put on them and should be allowed to merely concentrate on what they’re doing. Whilst football is the obvious sport to look at, it isn’t the only one that falls foul of such bizarre contradictions in the rules. Here is a look at what the rules are and why.
Events That Aren’t Specifically For Young People
The chief rule of thumb when it comes to placing bets on events that feature people under the age of 18 is that they’re fine as long as the under-18-year-old is coincidentally taking part in what you’re betting on. That is to say, a bet on a football team that features a 17-year-old is fine, but you wouldn’t be allowed to bet on the outcome of a match of that same team’s Under-18s side. Of course, this sometimes throws up some moments that will make you question the logic or sense of the rulings, such as during the League Cup in 2019.
At the time, the Merseyside club were playing in the Club World Cup in Qatar, yet the English Football League refused to give them any leeway for their League Cup match against Aston Villa, which was taking place within hours of the Club World Cup game. As a result, Liverpool fielded a team with an average age of 19.48, the majority of them being under the age of 18. In fact, even the manager was usually the manager of Liverpool’s youth side, with their most exciting player, Harvey Elliott, being under 17.
In spite of all of that, you could still place a bet on the Liverpool team if you wanted to, including a bet on Elliott to get on the scoresheet. This was only possible because the youthful team was playing in a senior competition. Had they been playing against Aston Villa in the Under-18s competition, you would not have been able to place a bet on the match with a British bookmaker, or indeed a bookmaker licensed to operate in the United Kingdom. It might seem odd, but it’s the way that the UKGC have decided to work it.
Why You Can’t Bet On Young People’s Events
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has strict rules in place on bookmakers offering odds on events that are specifically aimed at people aged under 18. The general thinking is that young people are more susceptible to bribes or other such approaches from those that would employ nefarious means to win bets. Given that footballers, as an example, are not allowed to turn professional under they are 17 or over, it makes sense that young people might be inclined to supplement their own income via a payment from outside.
The main thought process around betting on young people, though, is that there should be no external pressures on people trying to find their way in life. For youngsters, the hope is that they’ll be allowed to concentrate purely on developing themselves as athletes, irrespective of the sport that they’re taking part in. A tennis player shouldn’t be thinking about the odds that they’ve been given by a bookmaker when they’re playing in a qualifying match, for example. Equally, a cricket team playing an Under-18s match shouldn’t be looking at how the In-Play markets are fluctuating as the game goes on.
Mainly, though, there’s the fact that it is illegal for people under the age of 18 to place a bet in the United Kingdom, so placing bets on events for people within that category is surely likely to be a disruptive influence. Whilst contradictions are always available for discussion, bookies have to be allowed to take bets on events featuring under-18-year-olds because to not do so would be fair too complicated. That’s why the rule of thumb remains that betting on an event featuring young people is fine, but aimed at young people is not.
The Swedish Example
As an example of how complicated things can get when you start taking the age of participants into account, we only need to look as far as Sweden. In 2019, the Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen investigated four gambling companies over suggestions that they had taken bets on sporting events featuring participants that were mostly under the age of 18. In Sweden, licensed operators are not allowed to take bets or offer odds when the majority of the participants are aged under 18.
Obviously this is a tricky thing to monitor, as discovered by Spelinspektionen when they investigated the four operators and decided that, in actual fact, they had done nothing wrong. As proof of just how complicated it is, Bet365’s Swedish branch, Hillside Sports, was fined SEK 1 million in 2021 for offering bets on a league match between Kronängs IF vs Mariedals IK, in which 17 Kronängs players and seven Mariedals players were under 18. Hillside sport objected, making the point that they offered the bets in good faith and that the match wasn’t specifically declared an Under-18s game.