Gambling ads could carry wealth warning

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Future adverts by casinos, betting shops and internet poker sites may have to carry warnings about the dangers of gambling, under rules being drawn up by the Government before the lifting of the ban on advertising in the gambling industry next year.

Under last year's Gambling Act, gambling operators will be allowed to advertise in all media from September 2007. Tessa Jowell's Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission have recently proposed new rules for the industry to promote "socially responsible gambling".

The new code, akin to the rules surrounding advertising for alcohol, seeks to pacify critics who fear the new gambling laws will lead to a surge in gambling addiction. Jason Chess, a media lawyer at Wiggin LLP, said: " We will get a sweep of rules which will be not unlike the alcohol rules. The rules say the industry mustn't advertise in an irresponsible way - for example present gambling as a solution to pay off debt - or show gambling as sexy and cool."

The Gambling Commission said it would make gambling operators subject to the same rules on advertising and would not even prevent the "hard" forms of gambling such as roulette and blackjack from being marketed. But the Commission insisted advertising must not be targeted at the under 18s or other vulnerable groups. Adverts should also feature people who are, or seem to be, over 25.

It said it was considering whether adverts should carry warnings to discourage loss-chasing as in some countries, messages such as "know your limit, play within it". The Commission is also concerned about certain promotions that encourage people to gamble a minimum amount within a short period. It has invited the industry to respond to its proposals by 2 June.

Britons gambled £50bn last year, more than £800 per person. That was a sevenfold increase on the total gambled in 2001 when the Government started the biggest shake-up of the gambling laws since the 1960s. Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United and England striker, reportedly ran up a £700,000 gambling debt in the five months to February by betting on horses, dogs and football.

In the face of protests, the Government shelved plans for eight super-casinos and will allow only one to be built for the time being. It is considering whether to allow more in the future. Some 27 councils are competing for the licence for the super-casino, with up to 1,250 slot machines and unlimited jackpots. Another 41 want to host one of eight large and eight small casinos.