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Gambling in the U.K. in the News

By: R. Kingsley, Monday October 20th 2008
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In 2005 the U.K. Gambling Act was passed. Under this Act the gambling sector was liberalized. In particular online gambling was legalized and gambling enterprises were allowed to advertise. This law was hailed by the gambling enterprises and the gambling public but was condemned by those who saw it as a proliferation of a social evil. Online gambling has borne the brunt of the adverse reaction because of its easy access, particularly to minors and to people with gambling problems. However a recent report in the U.K. newspaper, Mail Online, has turned this popular conception on its head.

To start at the beginning the fears that problem gambling would increase were not unfounded. The report indicates that more gamblers are now seeking counseling for addiction to gambling than before the Act was passed. The increase in numbers is a significant 25%. In absolute terms GamCare, an institution that assists addictive gamblers, said that 38,000 people called its help line in 2007 as compared to 30,000 people in 2006. Another indicator of the problem is the quantum of gambling debt. The average gambling debt increased from £13,800 in 2006 to £17,500 in 2007. 7% of those who called GamCare reported debts in excess of £100,000.

The good news for Internet casino gamblers, if one can call it that, is that over 60% of the reported problem gamblers had wagered on sports through land based outlets. In fact less than 15% had wagered on the Internet of which a small proportion were engaged in online casino games. Therefore the increase in gambling in the U.K. after the passing of the 2005 Gambling Act cannot be attributed to online casinos.

The second issue that has vexed administrators is that of gambling advertisements. Since these have been allowed the gambling industry has opened the floodgates and gambling adverts are swamping the media. Some have gone overboard compelling the Advertising Standards Authority to ban some of the ads. This has opened a debate on whether advertisements should be regulated. The good news for advertisers is that Google has indicated that it will accept gambling advertisements in Britain. Google had stopped accepting gambling ads worldwide when the U.S. Congress had cracked down on online gambling in 2004. The passing of the UIGEA in 2006 did nothing to change the situation. But Google has been reviewing this policy regularly and with the opening up of gambling in the U.K. Google feels that the time has come when it can accept gambling ads for its portal in Britain. Online Casinos depend a lot on Internet advertising and have welcomed this move. Clive Hawkswood, the chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, has said that the association's members "will be using Google a fair bit."

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