controversy over in-play gambling ads

The Church of England has joined in the campaign to stop gambling advertisements during live events.

Apparently, the church has its own spokesman on gambling – the Right Reverend Alan Smith, Bishop of St Alban’s – and he is accusing bookmakers of failing to protect gambling addicts. The bishop is calling for new legislation to stop the broadcasting of commercials promoting in-play betting during football matches and other live events as, he claims, it is the quick ‘fix’ offered by such markets that appeals to addicted gamblers.

There is a cross-party coalition of powerful figures demanding action must be taken to close a loophole in the law which allows gambling adverts to be broadcast before the watershed as long as the event being covered is shown live. This, of course, means that children who are watching their favourite team are also exposed to such commercials.

Lord Chadlington, a leading Conservative in the House of Lords, wants the government to adopt a model similar to that used in Australia, where gambling ads on TV are banned not only during live sporting events but also for an hour before and hour after. He also argues that this should only be a first step towards an outright ban on the ads, at least up to the evening watershed. A commissioned poll suggests that the public would approve of a change of the law. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson also wants to ban adverts during live events but his proposals don’t go as far as that of Lord Chadlington. Such a drastic move would, however, have the support of LibDem leader Vince Cable.

Psychiatrists say such live odds adverts encourage spur-of-the-moment betting and so fuel addiction but bookmakers, naturally, disagree. They believe that their industry is under attack again after the decision to lower stakes on the controversial FBOTs but perhaps the main issue is that law makers no longer believe that the betting industry can be trusted to regulate itself – and they may have a point!