Green light given to gambling ads

The strict laws governing the advertising of gambling – including television advertising, which is currently banned – look set to be liberalised following publication of the Gambling Review Report on Tuesday (July 17).

The independent report is the first major review of the UK’s &£42bn gambling industry for 30 years. It says advertising practice should be decided by a single regulatory body called the Gambling Commission.

The report says: “The advertising of gambling products and premises should be subject to an advertising code of practice to be agreed by a new regulator.”

It remains to be seen how far-reaching the reforms are but at their most liberal it could mean allowing gambling to be advertised on television and radio – a potential goldmine for the advertising industry.

Penny Cobham, chairman of the British Casino Association, would welcome more relaxed advertising laws.

Cobham says: “These recommendations are potentially an enormous step forward. If enacted they will make the customer king.

“It brings [the industry] into the 21st century. Now consumers can decide whether they want a night out at the cinema or at the horses.”

However, other industry observers aren’t so sure.

A source says: “[Relaxing the rules is] something that has to be looked at closely. It doesn’t fit well with other recommendations such as dealing with vulnerable customers.”

Camelot says it would be a “mistake” for the National Lottery to come under the jurisdiction of a Gambling Commission. A spokesman also expressed concern about a liberalised gambling market, but conceded changes were “long overdue”.

The last shake-up of gambling advertising was in 1999. The ASA, which regulates print and promotion advertising, changed its rules to include gaming. Advertising is currently allowed on a “non-informative”, classified basis.

The ASA says in the report that it has had no complaints since the rules were introduced and that its current rules were adequate.

Other recommendations in the 260-page report, which makes 176 recommendations, include legalising online gambling, and guidelines to protect young and vulnerable people.

The consultation period is expected to end in October, with a Government response expected early next year.

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