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One thousand gambling websites face advertising ban 9 August 2007

A Government crackdown on gambling adverts from places that don’t meet the UK’s strict regulatory standards will lead to about one thousand gambling websites being banned from advertising in the UK.

Regulations laid in Parliament today use new powers in the Gambling Act 2005 to ban gambling adverts from companies operating outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The move means that some popular gaming websites will not be able to advertise in the UK from September 1st 2007, when the Gambling Act comes into force.

Independent research suggests there are around 2,300 gambling websites worldwide. Antigua is considered to have the largest number with around 537 sites followed by Costa Rica (474), Kahnawake (Canadian Reservation) (401) and the Netherlands Antilles (343).

Jurisdictions who wanted to be exempt from the ad ban had to pass a stringent assessment of their regulatory standards.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell, has rejected applications to join the exempted ‘white list’ from Alexander (Canadian Reservation), Netherlands Antilles and Tasmania. Applications from Kahnawake and Antigua are still being considered.

Gambling operators in jurisdictions that did not apply to be white listed are also automatically banned from 1st September too. These include major online gambling centres like Costa Rica and Belize.

Sites such as Betfred Casino and Poker, Interpoker.com and Littlewoodscasino.com are all currently based in non-white listed jurisdictions.

Only Alderney and the Isle of Man were able to demonstrate that they had in place a rigorous licensing regime designed to stop children gambling, protect vulnerable people, keep games fair and keep out crime. Countries in the EEA did not have to apply to be white listed.

James Purnell said:

“I make no apology for banning adverts for websites operating from places that don’t meet our strict standards. Protection is my number one priority. The fact that only Alderney and the Isle of Man have been able to meet the high standards demanded by our white listing criteria shows how tough the Gambling Act is. Indeed white listing has actually helped drive up regulatory standards in some countries.
“The Isle of Man, for example, has made significant improvements to their regulatory regime in order to secure a place on the white list. This includes requiring all licensees to make contributions to problem gambling research, education and treatment in line with requirement on UK operators.”

The ban will apply to all forms of gambling advertising from excluded jurisdictions including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, taxis, buses, the tube and some websites. If operators, publishers, broadcasters and advertising companies break the rules, they could face fines or even imprisonment.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will keep under review Alderney and the Isle of Man’s regulatory regimes to ensure that they continue to meet the white list criteria.

Figures recently published by the Gambling Commission found that over the four quarters to June 2007, 8.6% of the 8,000 adults surveyed had participated in at least one form of remote gambling in the previous month. If those only playing the National Lottery remotely are excluded, 5.9% of respondents had participated in remote gambling.

Notes:

  1. The Gambling Act 2005 bans companies based in countries, territories or jurisdictions outside the EEA from advertising foreign gambling in the UK, unless they can demonstrate that they have a satisfactory regulatory regime in place including measures that:
    • act to protect children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited;
    • keep out crime;
    • ensure that gambling is conducted fairly;
    • enforce compliance; and
    • ensure gambling operators are subject to rules on money-laundering and financial probity.
  2. Jurisdictions also had to demonstrate that they adhere to fair tax principles. In particular, they were judged on openness, equal availability and equal treatment.
  3. Guidance setting out the criteria that the Secretary of State employed when considering whether to permit gambling operators based in a country, territory or jurisdiction outside the EEA is available from the DCMS website.
  4. For companies not based in whitelisted jurisdictions to be able to advertise in the UK they need to move to the EEA or a jurisdiction on the white list or the jurisdiction in which they are based need to successfully reapply for a place on the white list.
  5. The EEA comprises all member states of the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway. In this case it also includes Gibraltar.
  6. Betfred Casino and Poker, Interpoker.com and Littlewoodscasino.com are all currently based in Netherlands Antilles.
  7. The Gambling Act introduces a new regulatory regime for gambling advertising, standardising rules across the industry. Strict advertising codes of practice will be overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority which will bar advertisers from: encouraging irresponsible or excessive gambling; seeking to harm or exploit children, the young, or other vulnerable persons; directing advertisements at those under 18; or featuring people who seem to be under 25. The Gambling Commission and Ofcom will also have power to take action against gross or repeat offenders which, if convicted, could lead to imprisonment and/or a fine.
  8. In addition to the ASA codes an industry voluntary code will also see a ban on gambling ads on children’s replica sports kits, a ban on broadcast adverts before a 9pm ‘watershed’ and the inclusion of gambling awareness signposting in adverts.
  9. RSe Consulting was commissioned by DCMS to conduct an independent literature review and statistical analysis of remote gambling in 2006. This can be found at: http://www.culture.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E0A395C1-35CC-4717-BF00-B1F6BD3A6B76/0/RemoteGambling_RSeReport.pdf and http://www.culture.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/89D59ABD-A1F6-4106-B922-2293997EF841/0/RemoteGamblingAppendix_RSeReport.pdf

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