Also using the UK Gambling Commission numbers this week was the political opposition Conservative Party, which claimed that ‘nearly a quarter of a million more' people gambled online last year compared to 2007 when advertising was permitted for the first time.
The Gambling Commission estimates that 7.4 percent of online gamers go on to develop an addiction to betting, reported the Daily Telegraph, leading the Tories to suggest that there could be an additional 17 760 people with a problem.
Tory politicians criticised the Labour government for failing to crack down on Internet gambling sites based overseas, which may have fewer safeguards such as contact numbers for helplines and limits on stakes, they claimed. The party would block sites from advertising in the UK unless they met the regulatory standards set by the Gambling Commission, and remote licences would be issued only once a company complied with the rules, opposition MPs stressed.
Firms would then be charged a fee to adopt a British standard kite mark advising customers that the site was safe and approved.
Tobias Ellwood, the shadow gambling minister, said: "The Government has been happy to sit idly by and do nothing to stop the surge in unregulated online gambling. With each year that passes more people are getting addicted to these sites which offer little consumer protection.
"Companies that advertise here must meet the UK's regulatory standards. We must ensure that online gambling is done in a responsible and safe environment.”
A spokesman for the Department for Culture and Sport rejected the Conservatives' calculations, however, saying that official research showed that gambling addiction remained stable at 0.6 percent of the population.
She added: "There is no basis in fact for this claim and the reality is that levels of problem gambling have not risen since 1997. Whilst it is true that more people are gambling online, it does not necessarily follow that more are becoming problem gamblers."
Last year, 3.36 million adults, 5.6 percent of the UK population, played gambling games online, compared to 3.12 million, or 5.2 percent, the year before. The preponderance of gambling continues to occur on the National Lottery.
Firms can obtain a licence to advertise in the United Kingdom only if they are registered in the UK or European Economic Area, or based in a country which appears on the "white list" of approved nations. This includes Antigua and Barbuda, Gibraltar, Malta, Alderney and the Isle of Man.
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