Jowell to seek global agreement on internet gambling

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Indy Politics

The Culture Secretary will seek an international agreement today on how to regulate the internet gambling industry.

Tessa Jowell is opening the first international summit to discuss the global impact of the massive industry, which already boasts one million regular punters in this country.

She is expected to urge delegates to think globally to ensure that children and vulnerable people are protected from "remote gambling" by telephone or online, that games are fair and crime is kept out.

But her attempts have already been thwarted by Washington's refusal to send a delegation to the summit, to be held at Ascot Racecourse in Berkshire.

Ms Jowell has already warned that the US ban on internet gambling could fuel a rise in unregulated offshore sites.

There is currently such a ban in force in Britain but new legislation will do away with it next year, clearing the way for super casinos and an influx of online gaming businesses.

Speaking ahead of the conference, which is expected to draw delegates from more than 30 countries, Ms Jowell told ITV1's Sunday Edition that those registering in the UK would still have to abide by "very tough" social responsibility codes.

Under the new UK laws, online operators have a "social responsibility" duty written into licences and policed by the independent Gambling Commission watchdog.

It requires them to work to prevent underage gambling, give prominent warnings about addiction and inform users how much time and money they have spent on the site.

Ms Jowell has acknowledged that the sharp increase in internet gambling was "a matter for concern" but added this is because it is as yet completely unregulated.

"It is our initiative to say this is a potential global problem and we must act together globally in the interests of our citizens," she said.

"There is a lot of public education to be done in order to make this progress.

"But I wouldn't underestimate the extent to which these international, global companies, the importance they attach to good reputation.

"And if they come to this country, they abide by the rules, they accept social responsibility, that enhances their reputation because it also increases the confidence of the increasing number of people who choose to gamble online."

Ms Jowell is opening the summit while chairing the event is the Sport Minister Richard Caborn. A press conference with the pair will be held at the racecourse at 11.30am.