The Salvation Army has said it is "deeply concerned" by the possible effects of new gambling advertising regulations on society.
Captain Matt Spencer, from The Salvation Army's Public Affairs Unit, said: "Despite some safeguards that appear to be incorporated into the new guidelines, The Salvation Army remains deeply concerned about the introduction of new gambling advertising and the potential effect that this may have on society."
Now The Salvation Army fears that an increase in gambling advertising will lead to an increase in the number of gambling addicts.
"Adverts are designed to stimulate demand and, as gambling advertising increases, our fear is that more people will be drawn into an addiction which can be devastating for individuals, families and the communities in which they live," said Captain Spencer.
Gambling advertising may also normalise gambling, he added.
"Advertising may also have the effect of further 'normalising' gambling in our culture, but gambling should not be considered a normal 'leisure' activity since it can be highly addictive and damaging.
"The effects of increased gambling advertising need to be closely monitored to assess its impact on gambling trends and any associated potential rise in problem gambling."
The Evangelical Alliance, representing more than a million evangelicals in the UK, also spoke out against the new "relaxed" gambling advertising regulations.
"New liberalised gambling advertising rules fly in the face of the Government's position on cigarette advertising and the debate around advertising unhealthy food to children," it said.
The new rules were revealed on the same day that religious groups - including the Evangelical Alliance - held a meeting with the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT), a charity which exists to tackle problem gambling in Britain through the funding of treatment, research and education programmes.
Jennifer Hogg, an Evangelical Alliance volunteer advisor on gambling issues and mother of two, expressed her disbelief at the release of the regulations: "While we were discussing distributing RIGT's excellent Government-backed education resources on gambling to youth organisations, rules were being published that will allow families to be bombarded with gambling advertising on TV and on public transport."
The Evangelical Alliance believes that legalising gambling advertising will combine with the explosion in online gambling to drastically increase the availability and attractiveness of gambling.
The alliance backed calls from Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University for gambling advertising to carry heath warnings as well as his claim that the National Lottery has proven that advertising stimulates demand.
Gareth Wallace, Westminster Parliamentary Officer for the Evangelical Alliance, accused the Government of "marked double standards", given its determination to ban all tobacco advertising.
"But gambling could be just as damaging to the nation's health," he warned, adding that the consequences of problem gambling were well documented in respect of personal and family costs.
"There can be no 'socially responsible' advertising of gambling, which can be highly addictive. Children will be able to view gambling advertisements on TV and in public spaces," he warned.
The regulations will allow the first TV and radio commercials for gambling facilities to be broadcast by September.
Salvation Army 'Deeply Concerned' by Gambling Advertising Regulations
New regulations from the Government on gambling advertising regulations have left The Salvation Army "deeply concerned".
Published 16 March 2007