Debate over gambling 'controls'

  • Published
Gambling machineImage source, AP
Image caption,
Advertising of gaming machines would be withdrawn from betting shop windows

Four of Britain's biggest bookmakers have pledged to promote responsible gambling, but campaigners say the move falls far short of what is needed.

William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power are restricting some advertising of games and bets.

They also announced a plan to set up an extra layer of self-regulation, funded by the industry.

But a watchdog has criticised the plan as unable to hold the industry to account.

The bookmakers have proposed:

  • A voluntary ban on advertising sign-up offers, such as free bets and free money on TV, before the watershed
  • The withdrawal of all advertising of gaming machines from betting shop windows
  • Dedicating 20% of shop window advertising to responsible gambling messages

All these would come into effect on 1 October, followed by the formation of a new organisation called the Senet Group, aimed at policing the industry.

Media caption,

Gala Coral CEO Carl Leaver: "I understand the concerns of other parents who don't want their children seeing these kind of adverts"

This will be headed by an independent standards commissioner and aim to protect "vulnerable" gamblers, while handing out fines to any operators breaking a code of conduct.

Carl Leaver, chief executive of Gala Coral, said these measures went "beyond" existing regulation.

But Matt Zarb-Cousin, from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said regulation of the industry was failing, leaving a vacuum that was not being filled effectively by this new body.

The gambling market was liberalised in the UK in 2007, allowing operators of casinos and bookmakers to advertise on television and radio.

In April, the government announced local authorities would be given more power to control the number of betting shops opening in their area, as part of a review of gambling policy.

Ministers said they were also looking at controls on gambling advertising and protections for players on fixed-odds terminals.

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