THE Church of England’s lead bishop on gambling, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has condemned new advertising standards issued this week as “another lost opportunity”.
The new standards for protecting children from irresponsible gambling advertisements, issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), prohibit online-gambling adverts targeted at groups of people who are likely to be under 18. It lists as “unacceptable” content such as animated characters and celebrities likely to appeal to children.
After the standards come into force on 1 April, CAP will be able to ban adverts which fall foul of them, or demand that advertisers make alterations, a spokeswoman said.
Dr Smith said, however, that there were insufficient penalties for companies who ignored the new standards. “With little consequences for companies flouting the rules, and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.
“With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate, I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises.
“This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling, and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.
“It is our moral duty to protect young people from gambling-related harm, and I hope the Committee of Advertising Practice will support my General Synod motion demanding tighter regulation around gambling advertising.”
The Bishop is to table a motion on 23 February, during the General Synod sessions, urging the Government to “reduce the quantity and pervasiveness of gambling advertising”, and introduce a mandatory levy on gambling firms to fund independently commissioned research, education, and treatment programmes.
The motion would also encourage churches to open their doors to people with gambling problems and support initiatives that educated children and young people about gambling-related risks.