UK gambling reforms ‘threaten promotions’

An overhaul of UK gambling laws could threaten the future of British-style promotional marketing in Europe, an industry body has warned.

Institute of Sales Promotion (ISP) director-general Edwin Mutton says that if the latest proposals for the Gambling Bill, published a week ago (MW last week), become law, “it would put the UK completely out of step with the rest of the EU and they would almost certainly tell us to get lost on the ‘level playing-field’ drive.”

At present, it is illegal in the UK to charge for entry to a lottery-style prize competition as part of a sales promotion. Marketers must either offer a “free-to-enter” route, or must include a test of “skill and judgement”. But the latest proposals – from a cross-party committee of MPs which has been scrutinising the draft bill – suggest dropping these restrictions.

Taken in isolation, the change would be good news for UK marketers, Mutton says. But he adds that it would almost certainly mean that talks on harmonising EU sales promotion laws along British lines would be abandoned, wrecking more than a decade of intensive lobbying work by the ISP and its partner, the British Promotional Merchandise Association (MW November 28, 2002).

The latest set of proposals would also make it illegal to charge consumers more than a nominal sum to find out whether they have won a prize. Many competitions currently make consumers call premium-rate phonelines to find out.

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