Tougher rules for gaming

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The Independent Online

Regulation of the £11bn gaming industry could be tightened up after an unprecedented official investigation.

Home Secretary Jack Straw is soon to get a National Audit Office report after extensive inquiries into whether the Gaming Board for Great Britain is keeping casinos, bingo clubs and lotteries free of crime. There are suggestions the board's very existence could be in question, due to the rules governing the industry.

The report, to be published at the end of May, has been delayed for several months by lengthy negotiations with the Gaming Board itself and the Home Office over its conclusions and recommendations.

Investigators have looked at the board's ways of vetting operators to see if they're fit and proper people, and if their staff have kept criminals out.

They're known to have done on-site inspections at all five of the board's regional offices, and taken industry soundings. Other third parties have also been consulted, as well as academics and charities with an interest in gaming or lotteries.

Investigators have even consulted five overseas gaming regulators to compare performance, performance measures, funding and staffing.

But Alan Goodenough, chief executive of London Clubs International, said: "The regulatory enquiry is pretty thorough. It hasn't failed in recent years, and there haven't been objections to licences on the grounds of being fit and proper."

The board regulates all UK casinos, bingo clubs, gaming machine suppliers and lotteries. Huge profits have always attracted criminals. From 1,500 casinos in 1968, when the board was set up, there are just 120 now, mostly run by big firms such as Rank, Hilton, London Clubs and Stanley Leisure.