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Gambling adverts face strict rules on social responsibility 13/03/2007
Owen Gibson Tuesday March 13, 2007

Watchdogs will today unveil rules designed to prevent a surge in problem gambling when advertising restrictions on bookmakers and casinos are lifted.

Gambling Commission
Casinos, betting shops and online gaming sites will be able to advertise on television and radio from September for the first time under the 2005 Gambling Act, which also paved the way for the UK's first "super casino" in Manchester.

The self-regulatory body that draws up the advertising codes said yesterday that the "strict new rules" would ensure the adverts remained socially responsible.

The relaxation of the ban is expected to signal a boom in television advertising, particularly among online casinos hitherto limited to billboards, sponsorship and online advertising.

The rules will insist adverts do not imply that gambling can be a solution to financial problems and will be policed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Adverts may not "portray, condone or encourage" behaviour that could lead to "financial, emotional or social harm". As with the code governing alcohol advertising, they must not be of particular appeal to children and young people, nor link the activity to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.

Roger Wisbey, secretary of the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, said the changes marked a significant milestone.

"Although advertisers will enjoy more freedom to advertise their services across media, the public can be confident they will do so within a stringent framework that requires all ads to be prepared in a socially responsible manner," he added.

The minister for sport, Richard Caborn, said the new rules "set out clearly what is and isn't acceptable advertising practice". But he insisted the government was not complacent and would monitor the impact of the rules. "If they are insufficient to ensure proper public protection, the government will consider using its additional powers."

However, while welcoming the regulatory framework, some groups expressed continuing concern.

A Church of England spokesman said it was hard to see how "vulnerable persons" could be fully protected from adverts that induced them to gamble.

"We have strong reservations about the effects of liberalising the law, and we question whether the carefully-devised safeguards will prevent the growth of problem gambling, with its attendant damage to individuals and families."

The Salvation Army said it remained deeply concerned. "Advertising may also have the effect of further 'normalising' gambling in our culture."

Scheduling restrictions will ban radio and TV adverts for gambling during and around programmes aimed at under 18s and no one who appears to be under 25 may be shown gambling.