TV adverts plan for casinos prompts fear of addiction rise

CASINOS, betting shops and other gambling organisations will be allowed to advertise on television under proposed rules published today.

The regulations, which set out a series of restrictions for gambling advertisements in both broadcast and print media, come after the government said last year it was prepared to lift the ban on gambling advertising.

A public consultation on the legislation, to ensure gambling adverts are "socially responsible", is also being launched today.

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The government's approach to gambling has already come under scrutiny over its decision to allow one supercasino in Britain - for which Glasgow made it on to the shortlist.

Under the rules put forward today, gambling adverts will be banned from showing behaviour which is "socially irresponsible" or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm. However religious organisations have warned any adverts for gambling could lead to problem betting.

The new regulations would also prevent gambling advertisers targeting children or other vulnerable people. They should not link gambling to seduction, sexual success or "enhanced attractiveness".

They say adverts should not imply gambling can solve money problems, create an alternative to work or create financial security. Spread betting would only be advertised on specialist financial TV and radio channels.

The Advertising Standards Authority will police the new gambling adverts to ensure they comply with content guidelines. Print adverts found in breach will be referred to the Gambling Commission for further action. Broadcast commercials that do not comply will be dealt with by Ofcom.

The consultation is being launched jointly by the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice.

Andrew Brown, chairman of the two committees, said: "The overriding priority is to ensure that gambling advertisements are socially responsible and avoid harming or exploiting children or vulnerable groups."

Peter Dean, the chairman of the Gambling Commission, said: "It will be crucial to ensure advertisements are consistent with the provisions in the legislation, in particular with the objective of protecting children and other vulnerable people from harm."

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Captain Matt Steven, a spokesman for the Salvation Army, said the charity was concerned about the potential impact on society of advertising gambling.

"Adverts are designed to stimulate demand and so, as more people are exposed to these adverts, they may be more likely to gamble. We fear this could lead to an increase in problem gambling and this needs to be closely monitored," he said.

Earlier this month John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, became embroiled in a conflict of interests row after it emerged he and his officials had last summer stayed at the ranch of Philip Anschutz, an American millionaire who is seeking government permission to be allowed to set up Britain's first super casino, on the site of the Dome in London.

Public consultation on the proposed guidelines for gambling adverts closes on 15 September. The rules take effect from September 2007.