Gambling adverts 'should have health warnings'

Last updated at 17:01 13 August 2006


Health warnings should be placed on adverts for gambling, the Tories said today after a report warned new casino laws could help fuel a rise in addiction.

The author of the Government-sponsored report has accused ministers of failing to properly consider the implications of relaxing the UK's gaming laws.

Professor Jim Orford said the planned introduction of super-casinos, easier access, high-jackpot machines and the rise of online gambling would create serious long-term problems.

"The Government, strongly pressured by the gaming industry, has gone for a major liberation of gaming and everybody I have spoken to thinks that will increase the number of problem gamblers," he told The Times.

"I don't think they (ministers) gave sufficient attention to the public health aspects of problem gambling, nor did they pay much attention to whether the public really wanted this relaxation," he added.

His report - commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry - said new laws had encouraged new forms of gambling which they would struggle to keep pace with.

Shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire accused ministers of putting the potential revenue to be made from gambling above public health.

"This report clearly demonstrates the dangers of the Government's desire to press ahead with the biggest changes to gambling in Britain's history.

"Rather than proceed cautiously, ministers have actively encouraged the unprecedented growth in gambling that we are currently witnessing.

"Ministers have been more interested in the revenue gambling generates that addressing the related effects on society. In particular, they have been asleep to the impacts of on line gambling."

Calling for action, he said: "Given the predictions in this report, we would urge Tessa Jowell to look again at our calls for better regulation of gambling, including health warnings on adverts and protection such as time restrictions for on line gambling.

"If government does not take the necessary action now, we will witness the consequences in years to come."

He added: "That it has taken the DTI to tell DCMS about the risks of an increase in problem gambling again demonstrates a lack of joined up government on this important issue".

Under the Gambling Act 2005 eight large and eight small casinos are to be allowed in addition to a regional "super casino".

Large gambling venues will be allowed up to 150 machines offering jackpots of up to £4,000, while the smaller versions will be permitted 80.

Casinos, betting shops and other gambling services will also have greater scope for advertising - including on television.

TV adverts for betting, gaming and lotteries are currently banned except the National Lottery and some other exceptions.

The relaxation of restrictions has led to a slew of warnings that Britain faces a gambling epidemic.

However Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has insisted that safeguards in the new laws would provide Britain with "the most protective legislation in the world".

The effects would be monitored carefully, she said, pledging to move to shut down casinos if it was shown that they were increasing problem betting. A number of towns and cities across the country are competing to host the UK's first Las Vegas-style super casino, with the former Millennium Dome the front runner in the first round of judging, just ahead of Glasgow and Blackpool.

The independent Casino Advisory Panel will announce the successful venue by the end of the year, as well as the venues for another eight small and eight large casinos at the same time.

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