Why can’t I open gambling apps on my phone?

Horse racing
All bets are off... if your network settings aren't right

Fancy a flutter on Man Utd vs Liverpool while you’re in the pub? But every time you tap on a gambling app on your phone – when you’re not on the home Wi-Fi – the app just freezes? Here’s what’s going on.

The mobile companies have adult content controls on their networks which can prevent even over-18 customers from accessing sites or apps concerned with gambling, pornography and other ‘adult’ content.

The phone networks normally turn these controls on by default when it knows the account is being used by an under-18. However, some networks also turn on these controls by default, as Virgin Mobile did with my account, leaving me unable to have a flutter every time I was using mobile data, until I worked out what was going on.

Account holders can normally get these controls switched off by ringing their mobile network’s customer service line. “Press 1 to be able to throw a tenner on the 3:45 at Ascot.”

You might also be able to tweak the settings via online accounts. With Virgin Mobile for instance, you go to the Virgin Media website, log in with your Virgin Mobile (not Virgin Media) credentials, then select ‘About my plan’ in the phone section, then select ‘Manage my services’ and make sure the parental controls are flicked to off.

Virgin Mobile parental controls

It’s also worth pointing out that these controls can actually be a benefit to adult customers, especially those with gambling addictions. If you’re worried you might be tempted to gamble when away from home, you might even be able to ask your mobile network to put a permanent bar on the adult content, so that you cannot switch the controls off via the website.

There’s more advice on how to deal with problem gambling here.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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