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GOVERNMENT TO INTRODUCE TOUGH NEW GAMBLING PROTECTIONS

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Tougher controls on high prize gaming machines and new powers for ...
Tougher controls on high prize gaming machines and new powers for

local authorities to stop casinos opening in their areas are among

new powers that will be introduced as part of the government's

modernisation of Britain's gambling laws, secretary of state for

culture, media and sport Tessa Jowell has announced.

She also said that, as part of the government response to the joint

scrutiny committee's report on the draft Gambling Bill, a more

cautious, incremental approach to gambling reform would be adopted,

with the protection of children and vulnerable people at the heart of

the proposals.

Central to this will be an evidence-based regulator, the new Gambling

Commission. A problem gambling prevalence study will be carried out

before the Bill comes into force and will form a baseline for further

studies carried out every three years after that by the new

commission. If there is evidence of problems emerging as a result of

reform, even tougher protections will be introduced.

The measures will form part of the government's wide-ranging

modernisation of Britain's gambling laws, which are out of date and

unable to provide effective safeguards for children and vulnerable

people against new forms of gambling technology.

Ms Jowell said:

'I was very pleased that the scrutiny committee accepted our view

that new controls are urgently needed to keep up with changes in

technology. Modernisation is essential if we are to keep gambling

fair, crime free, and protect children and vulnerable people from new

and old temptations. I want to introduce a Gambling Bill as soon as

possible, hopefully later this year.

'Britain has one of the lowest rates of problem gambling in the

developed world. This is at risk if we do not act now and bring our

laws up to date. The new powers and protections in this Bill, some

recommended by the scrutiny committee and some going much further

than they suggested, are all intended to keep Britain's problem

gambling rate amongst the lowest.

'We only propose giving adults additional consumer choice where we

can also protect children and vulnerable players. And before

implementation of the new regime, we will carry out a national study

of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling.

The new national regulator will then conduct further studies every

three years.

'If the evidence tells us that we need to be tougher to protect the

public, then we will be. And the new Gambling Commission will be able

to initiate its own prosecutions and impose unlimited fines for

breaches of licence conditions, like the Financial Services

Authority.

'If there is sustained evidence that reform has gone well, then we

can consider allowing further choice. But we will be cautious for now

and will always put the interests of children and vulnerable players

first, second and third.'

The government has accepted 121 out of 139 recommendations from the

joint scrutiny committee which reported on the draft Gambling Bill in

April.

Significant recommendations the government has decided to accept

include:

* Banning fruit machines from unlicensed premises such as minicab

offices and takeaways, leading to the removal of machines from around

6,000 premises which children would otherwise be able to play

* Creating a new third category of largest 'regional' casinos on top

of the existing categories of Small and Large

* Capping Las Vegas style unlimited prize slot machines at 1250 in

Regional casinos

* Preventing small casinos from offering bingo

In pursuit of robust protections that prevent any increase in problem

gambling, the government also announced tougher powers that go beyond

the committee's recommendations:

* Giving local authorities powers to prevent new casinos opening up

in their area, thus giving local residents a democratic voice in

these decisions

* Gambling prevalence studies every three years to monitor problem

gambling, which will form the basis for evidence-based regulation by

the new Gambling Commission

* Las Vegas style slot machines will now only be permitted in the

largest regional casinos

* Capping numbers of all machines in all casinos

* Compulsory non-gambling areas or 'chill out rooms' in all casinos

* Compulsory registration for all users of betting exchanges, not

just 'professional' users

* Gambling Commission to produce codes of practice on social

responsibility that every gambling operator will be required to

comply with as a licence condition

The government's responseto the first report of the joint committee on the draft Gambling Bill.

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