Online Gambling purge?


A dramatic crackdown on online gambling firms could result in hundreds of foreign operators being forced out of Britain reports the Daily Mail today.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is planning to stop companies based overseas from advertising in this country amid mounting concern that millions are becoming addicted to gambling.

He is also considering a ban on the use of credit cards for internet gaming to stop people risking money they do not have, the Daily Mail has learned.

The moves would drive hundreds of foreign firms out of this country, officials believe.

They would involve tearing up large parts of Labour’s controversial 2005 Gambling Act, which is blamed by critics for a dramatic deregulation of the industry.

A senior government source said: ‘Ministers are concerned about the explosion of internet gambling advertising since Labour relaxed the gambling laws.

Changes the Government want to make would help protect the public from gambling companies that don’t meet UK standards but have been allowed to profit from Labour’s lax approach to internet gambling.’

Experts say around a million children are addicted to gambling and Labour’s lenient gaming laws are largely to blame. They warn that vulnerable children have become hooked after casinos, bookmakers and betting websites were allowed to advertise on TV.

Under the Gambling Act, any company that holds a licence for online gaming in the UK must carry out stringent checks to prevent children playing highly addictive games. But only operators who locate their key equipment in Britain are required to be licensed by the Gambling Commission.

And a loophole in the law means that countries across Europe – and others in a so-called ‘white list’ – can advertise their services in the UK without being subject to strict regulations. They include Alderney, the Isle of Man, Antigua and the Australian state of Tasmania.

UK consumers spent £2.5billion on internet or telephone gambling, and operators licensed by the Gambling Commission represented less than a quarter of this. ‘This means that UK consumers aren’t being as well protected as they could be,’ said the government source.

Italy and France have recently moved to license and tax firms in their own countries rather than overseas, and others, including Spain and Greece, look likely to follow suit.

‘We are the only country to permit overseas operators to advertise whilst relying on an overseas licence on issues of playing protection,’ the source added.

Mr Hunt is considering overhauling the law so that all online and telephone gambling is regulated here. All those offering services in the UK market would have to hold a Gambling Commission licence and subject themselves to the provisions of the law.

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