Pre-watershed advertising comes under fire in the UK as part of legislation crackdown

Pre-watershed gambling adverts have come under scrutiny from culture secretary Maria Miller following her weekend announcement of a wider crackdown on gambling.

In an article in The Sunday Times, Miller voiced concerns over what she described as the "seemingly constant" gambling adverts shown on British screens and called on the Advertising Standards Authority to review their effects on children and vulnerable people especially.

Members of the House of Lords have also challenged the rise in gambling adverts on the UK’s screens, which OfCom found to have risen by 600% since 2006 with children exposed to a third of the average amount of adverts watched by adults.

Of particular concern are the daytime adverts for online bingo, saturation sports betting for matches shown before 9pm and 'free' betting on social media platforms, which until now have been exempt from the Gambling Act, 2005.

But today it is thought gambling legislation has fallen out of step with technological developments in the industry.

Bingo's migration online has transformed the game from a traditional, community leisure activity to one that is "solitary, repetitive and addictive" said Baroness Jones of Whitchurch in a recent post on the Labour Lords Blog.

She continued: "The exemptions allowing adverts for bingo and sports betting, combined with new social media opportunities, have become major loopholes which the online gambling companies all too readily exploit.”

The issues will form part of amendments to the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, which will be examined in more detail by the Lords on Tuesday.

Other changes include a toughening up of the voluntary code of conduct that came into effect on Friday which, where adopted, sets limits for the amount of money and time betting shop customers can spend on machines, displays warning messages on screen and ensures staff are trained to spot problems.

Miller said in future the code should be compulsory and take even firmer measures to restrict the high-stakes games currently available on fixed-odds betting terminals in particular.

Miller said: "We want a successful gambling industry but not at the price of public protection. Player protection must be made mandatory so that every bookmaker must abide by the new rules. I have asked the Gambling Commission to make this happen."

A separate amendment by Conservative peer Lord Moynihan proposes that match-fixing becomes a criminal offence with penalties of up to ten years imprisonment.

Emma Rumney

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