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Challenges to UK Gambling Bill
Saturday March 2,2014 : POLITICAL CHALLENGE TO U.K. GAMBLING BILL
House of Lords concerns on advertising could create complications for government's gambling bill.
Britain's gambling reform bill has run into possible delays in the House of Lords as politicians there raise concerns regarding the alarming rise in gambling advertising and its possibly detrimental effect on minors.
The Independent newspaper reported Sunday that the Upper House is worried about the amount of pre-9pm "watershed" adverts that are running on British television and radio, and can be seen by minors.
A strong initiative has organised a pushback on the advertising blitz, with an amendment to the proposed gambling legislation which will apparently be tabled next Tuesday in the Lords.
In it, Culture Minister Maria Miller will be called upon to instigate an urgent review of the impact on minors of pre-watershed advertising by gambling companies, with online bingo and sports betting of particular concern, along with free betting offers on social platforms such as Facebook.
The Independent quotes research from media regulator Ofcom, which last November found that gambling commercials on British television had increased by 600 percent, from 234,000 to 1.4 million a year, since deregulation of the sector in September 2007.
The 1.39 million gambling ads generated 30.9 billion “impacts” or individual views. The Ofcom research found that a substantial number of adverts were shown before the watershed and that while adults saw an average of 630 ads, children aged between four and 15 watched an average of 211.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara told The Independent:
“Every sports ad break now starts and finishes with gambling adverts. It has spread from football into other sports such as tennis. You cannot watch sports without being saturated with gambling adverts and if you have kids that is worrying.”
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch of the Labour Party supported him, saying that online bingo had “taken off” but had “none of the attributes” of the game played in community centres and village halls. “It is solitary, repetitive and addictive,” she said.
“The exemptions allowing adverts for bingo and sports betting, combined with the new social media opportunities, have become major loopholes which the on-line gambling companies all too readily exploit.”
“Anyone switching on morning or afternoon TV, as I did over Christmas, will see a relentless bombardment of ads for online bingo presented as an entertaining pastime with no mention of the dangers of addiction. Often these programmes are watched by children without adults present, and we know from other studies how susceptible they can be to adverts.”
Another concern raised by Upper House members is the fear that online gambling companies are "grooming" the underaged for gambling by offering free bets and other inducements, inclkuding on social networking sites, which may influence their future behaviour and attitudes to gambling.
Conservative Party peer Lord Moynihan, the former Sports Minister, has tabled a separate amendment to introduce a criminal offence of match-fixing, punishable by a jail sentence of up to ten years, The Independent reports.
Lord Astor, father-in-law of Prime Minister David Cameron, is supporting another amendment to the Gambling Bill which would subject bookmakers to a levy on online betting that could be worth GBP 20 million to British horseracing.
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