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Government must urgently restrict gambling advertising, councils argue

Greater restrictions are needed on gambling advertising on both TV and social media to curb the risk of young people being negatively affected, councils have warned.

A statement from the LGA warned that huge rises in gambling advertising, including during sports events also watched by children, is leading to more young people falling into the trap of gambling addiction when they get older.

Figures have shown that almost one in 10 (9%) of children aged 11-15 follow gambling companies on social media, with the 16-24 age category having the second highest rate of problem gambling.

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has previously stated that between 2007 and 2012 the number of gambling adverts went up by 500% as companies were allowed to advertise on TV for the first time.

The LGA has now expressed serious concern that the government’s ambition to encourage socially responsible growth in the sector is being undermined.

“Gambling advertising on television has rocketed since the Gambling Act came into force in 2007, which is a major concern for councils who are aware of the personal harm that problem gambling can cause,” said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board.

“The rise in both televised sporting events, such as Premier League football, and gambling advertising means viewers, particularly children, are being exposed to increasing amounts of gambling brands and betting messages.”

In the LGA’s Budget submission, the organisation is urging maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to be reduced from £100 to £2 in line with maximum stakes for other gaming machines.

It has also demanded cumulative impact tests to be introduced to enable councils to reject applications for new betting shops where there is already an existing cluster of shops.

Cllr Blackburn went on to say that councils were not anti-bookies, but argued that a new cumulative impact test would give them the power to veto new betting shops – and FOBTs – in places where there are already existing clusters.

“Councils are also increasingly frustrated over their lack of powers to curb the proliferation of FOBTs – which currently exceed 34,000 in the UK – and the concentration of betting shops on high streets,” he continued. “Lowering maximum FOBT stakes to £2 in line with other gaming machines would help protect those at risk of problem gambling from incurring higher losses.

“Problem gambling can lead to spiralling debt, deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, and a toll on society – and taxpayers – through crime and disorder, family breakdown and homelessness. It’s vital that improved social responsibility measures are implemented to help to reduce this.”

Top Image: Kathrin Kasper PA Images

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