Move to relax casino and betting shop rules

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The Independent Online
Casinos may soon be able to advertise, provide late-night drinking and have more fruit machines under a Home Office review of gaming laws announced yesterday.

Betting shops are also expected to be allowed to advertise their services in the latest government move to deregulate the gambling industry and make it more accessible to the public. Anti-gambling organisations said the moves would lead to greater addiction, particularly among young people.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said yesterday that the ban on advertising for casinos was ``ripe for review''.

Addressing the British Casino Association, he said: ``There are legitimate concerns that unrestricted advertising would send out the wrong signal to those who might be vulnerable to excessive gaming. But I think there is a case for your being allowed to give out information about yourselves, the location and facilities offered. We should also like to look at similar restrictions in other areas, such as betting shops.''

The Home Office review, which will include public consultation, is also expected to recommend changes to the law that requires all customers to join a casino 48 hours before they can start gambling.

Other likely changes are the end of the midnight deadline on serving alcohol in casinos and the relaxation of planning laws on casinos and betting shops.

Mr Howard announced that the number of jackpot fruit machines, which provide large cash payouts, would be increased from two to six in casinos and to four in bingo clubs. And for the first time in 25 years, two new casino games, Super Pan 9 and Casino Stud Poker, are to be permitted.

Despite the recession, profits from casinos have been steadily rising. Gamblers staked pounds 2.23bn in British casinos in 1993-94, of which the clubs retained pounds 411m after paying out winnings.

The announcement follows the Government's decision that, from next spring, betting shops can open on Sunday, have clear glass windows and large television screens, and offer improved refreshments. The first draw of the National Lottery, which has a pounds 2m jackpot, takes place on 19 November. From 14 November the pools companies can lower the age of entry from 18 to 16, and promote in shops. Emanuel Moran, chairman of the National Council on Gambling, said: ``These are extremely dangerous decisions . . . which is encouraging gambling.''