Gamblers need more protection, says culture secretary

fruit machine A successful gambling industry must not be at the expense of player protection, Ms Miller says.

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A voluntary code of conduct for the gambling industry will be made compulsory but needs toughening up, Culture Secretary Maria Miller says.

The voluntary code includes setting limits for the amount of money and time customers spend on machines.

But Ms Miller wants the Gambling Commission to look at tougher rules, including forcing customers to set spending limits before they play.

The Association of British Bookmakers welcomed her comments.

A spokesman said it wanted to help the small number of people who had gambling problems without ruining the experience for those who gambled safely.

Gambling facts:

  • The Gambling Commission was set up under the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate commercial gambling in the UK.
  • Addicts who would like to prevent themselves from gambling can ask the operator to refuse to accept their custom. The number of people who have chosen to do this has risen from 11,424 in 2008-9 to 22,485 in 2012-13.
  • The average number of people employed by the gambling industry has fallen from 60,247 in 2008-9 to 54,093 in 2012-13.

Source: The Gambling Commission

The voluntary code created by the gambling industry came into effect on Friday. Where it is adopted it means gamblers are forced to take breaks, warning messages appear on screen and staff are trained to spot problems.

Under Ms Miller's proposals the code would become mandatory and rules would be toughened up to include forced spending and time limits, particularly on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), including high-stakes games such as roulette.

It would be mandatory for bookmakers to sign up to the code before being granted a licence.

The culture secretary has also ordered the Advertising Standards Authority to review the rules surrounding gambling adverts.

She is concerned about the number of adverts by betting firms on television, and whether children and other vulnerable people needed to be better protected.

'Cravings'

Ms Miller said: "We want a successful gambling industry but not at the price of public protection. Player protections must be made mandatory so that every bookmaker must abide by the new rules.

"I have asked the Gambling Commission to make this happen. In the future, these rules will therefore form part of the operators' licence conditions and bookmakers will have to accept them or not be able to trade."

Gambling therapist Liz Carter told the BBC that she also welcomed the proposals, but said she was "concerned" these changes would be seen as a cure to those people already hooked.

She said: "For them limiting the amount and time and money spent to this degree is not going to limit the cravings that they are experiencing to continue playing with these machines.

"And the cravings are every bit as serious as those for the drug addict or the alcoholic."

Addicts who would like to prevent themselves from gambling can ask the operator to refuse to accept their custom, this is known as self-exclusion. Figures from the Gambling Commission show that the number of self-exclusions has risen from 11,424 in 2008-9 to 22,485 in 2012-13.

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