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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Government Hypocrisy over Gambling Care

Government Hypocrisy over Gambling Care

As the UK prepares for the launch of gambling advertising from tomorrow, many are deploring the governments decision not to require advertisers to include the telephone number of a gambling addiction helpline in their messages.

GamCare, a charitable organisation dedicated to promoting responsible attitudes towards gambling, says that not only has the government refused to make it mandatory for the helpline number to be included, as is the case in most other jurisdictions, it will not even recommend that gambling operators should include the helpline number in their advertisements.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says that the gambling industry’s self-regulatory code requires the inclusion of a new website address on all advertising; this website will provide general Information on all aspects of gambling, including where to find help. DCMS argues that it would therefore be inappropriate to recommend the inclusion of the Helpline number on those advertisements.

The Gambling Commission says that it would not have been possible for a telephone service to have been established by 1 September. GamCare has been providing exactly such a service for the last 10 years and is fully prepared for a substantial increase in calls.

Anthony Jennens, Chairman of GamCare, said: “Gambling companies have every right to advertise and it could be argued that their product is substantially less dangerous than motor cars, liquor or cheap hamburgers. However, Government views gambling as so dangerous or morally corrupting that it must be tightly controlled and regulated. It is wholly inconsistent with this stance to fail to include such a basic safeguard as a direct Helpline number, where a trained telephone counsellor can give objective advice about where to go for help, including local providers, Gambler’s Anonymous etc.”

The Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, Don Foster MP has also written to the Government asking them to reconsider their decision not to require inclusion of the new helpline number.

“While opportunities to gamble will dramatically increase this weekend, the Government is refusing to make it easier for problem gamblers to find helpline numbers,” he said.

"It is hypocritical and irresponsible that a government ostensibly so concerned with protecting the vulnerable will not put the simplest of safeguards in place.

"I have written to the Government to express my deep concern at this reckless move which flies in the face of Labour’s promises to tackle problem gambling. When will ministers live up to their rhetoric and make it easy for problem gamblers to receive the help and advice they need?"


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