Gambling industry gets lucky at last

The deregulation of the gaming sector gets under way
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The Independent Online
Bingo clubs may be allowed to advertise on television and radio, and betting shops and casinos should soon be able to promote their services in print, the Home Office said yesterday.

The proposals are part of the Government's initiative to deregulate the gaming industry. Under Home Office proposals, strict licensing curbs that forbid the serving of alcohol in casinos after midnight are to come to an end. Casinos in England and Wales will be allowed to sell beers, wines and spirits until 3am in London, and until 2am in the regions.

The 48-hour rule, which prevents anybody playing in a casino until two days after applying for membership, is to be cut to 24 hours. Under the proposals, debit cards will also be allowed in casinos and bingo clubs. The measures are included in a draft Deregulation (Casinos) Order which should come into play in the New Year if they receive a smooth passage through Parliament.

Timothy Kirkhope, Home Office minister, added: "On bingo and betting shops, I propose to lay a draft order later this year to remove restrictions on print advertising and possibly to allow broadcast advertising of bingo."

Earlier proposals to allow 13 new casinos to be built in England and Wales are be re-examined after local authorities from two of the areas earmarked - Croydon in south London, and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire - raised objections. Additional cities may be added to the original list. The potential sites already mentioned are Dartford and Folkestone in Kent, Gloucester, Hastings in East Sussex, Ipswich in Suffolk, Morecambe in Lancashire, Oxford, Redbridge in Essex, Slough in Berkshire, Swindon in Wiltshire and Weymouth, Dorset. An announcement is expected in a few weeks.

Mr Kirkhope also announced that additional measures would be considered before being put before Parliament. These proposals would be to allow postal applications for membership, group membership, and slot machines in casinos.

The proposals reflect the Government's deregulation policy and follow complaints by the gaming industry that it has been losing a lot of business to the National Lottery.