New gambling rules 'don't go far enough' to protect children, warn Christian campaigners

(Photo: Unsplash/Helloimnik)

New guidelines around gambling advertising have been criticised by Christian campaigners who fear they are not stringent enough to protect children from harm. 

The guidelines from the Committees for Advertising Practice (CAP) ban gambling operators from using TV and movie characters, as well as celebrities that appear to be below the age of 25 in their advertising. 

They are also not allowed to place gambling ads in sections of websites aimed at children, such as young football fan pages.  

While CAP claimed the new guidelines were aimed at protecting children from irresponsible advertising, CARE UK questioned how they could be enforced when the Advertising Standards Authority has no power to fine companies that ignore the rules. 

'There are hundreds of thousands of young people betting on a regular basis,' said CARE spokesperson James Mildred.

'This gambling epidemic is being fueled by irresponsible advertising and it is about time the industry was called to account.

'I'm not convinced, however that these new rules do anywhere near enough to truly address the scale of the problem. 

'It is also astounding that the ASA will not be able to issue fines to companies who flout these new regulations. This raises questions about whether the new rules will be properly enforced.'

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, who is the Church of England's lead bishop on gambling issues, was also sceptical. 

'They haven't changed any actual rules, these are simply new guidelines and so far the gambling industry has shown itself either unwilling or incapable of self-regulation,' he said. 

Bishop Smith urged the Government to start taking childhood gambling addiction seriously after figures from the Gambling Commission last November revealed the scale of the problem. 

The latest audit by the Gambling Commission showed that the number of 11- to 16-year-olds with a gambling problem now stands at 55,000.

However, the Gambling Commission classified 70,000 youngsters as being 'at risk' and found that around one in seven - some 450,000 children - are betting regularly.

Bishop Alan Smith said the figures were a 'generational scandal' and a 'warning to parents'. 

'After years of progress, it seems the rates of children gambling is creeping back up. These figures suggest 450,000 11-16-year-olds have gambled in the past week - that is deeply concerning,' he said.

'We need to start taking the dangers of gambling seriously - 55,000 children classed as problem gamblers is a generational scandal.'