The Sunday Times has reported that cabinet ministers have succeeded in derailing much of the planned wholesale liberalisation of Britain's gaming laws led by the minister who is also a member of the Christian Socialist Movement.
It will mean there will be little chance of casinos being built in high streets across the country, although measures such as a relaxation of rules governing drinking of alcohol at gaming tables is likely to be introduced.
A group of Salvation Army teenagers met the Secretary of State for Culture in late March, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, to deliver nearly one thousand postcards asking the government to look again at the Draft Gambling Bill.
The postcards highlighted the inconsistency between the Government's statement that gambling should be for "Adults only" whilst continuing to allow children to play slot machines, especially in public places like shops and minicab offices where there is little or no adult supervision.
The teenagers asked the Government to make fruit machines available only to adults in licensed and regulated places. An NOP poll commissioned by The Salvation Army at the end of 2003 indicated that 82% thought children and young people under 18 should not be allowed to play fruit machines. It also showed that 93% of the population think that there are already enough opportunities to gamble, and 94% of the population thought that allowing people to gamble using credit cards would put people at greater risk of incurring gambling debts.
The Salvation Army is an international Christian church working in 109 countries worldwide, and has over 1.5 million members and 88,000 employees. Its programmes include homeless centres, drug rehabilitation centres, schools, hospitals, medical centres, as well as nearly 16,000 churches.
Jonathan Lomax, Public Affairs Officer for The Salvation Army said, "There are many young people who are concerned about the future of their generation and the campaign was a way of helping them to express their worries and to begin to engage at a political level. It is this generation that will have to deal with the fallout of new pieces of legislation like the Gambling Bill and they have a right to have a say in their future."
"Kids need protecting from other harmful addictions like drugs and alcohol, so why not gambling? It can be just as addictive and damaging," said 19-year-old Daryn McCombe from Sutton Salvation Army in South London, "it's up to young people like us to stand up for friends who might already be addicts."
The Government stated that the legislation's main aim was to keep crime out of gambling, ensuring fairness and to protect children and vulnerable people from the negative effects of gambling. However the Bill would have introduced new machines with unlimited stakes and prizes, and would have continued to consent to children and young people under the age of 18 to play on certain types of fruit machines.
Some cabinet members have also argued against making it easier for people to gamble, pointing out examples of other countries where gambling problems have increased since gambling laws were relaxed.
The Liberalisation of Gambling Laws is derailed after Protests
Published 07 April 2004 | Andrew Clark