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Christians welcome gambling companies' whistle-to-whistle ad ban

by Cara Bentley

Just a few weeks after discussions over gambling laws caused Conservative minister Tracey Crouch to resign, betting companies have opted in to an advertising ban during live sports games on TV.

Bet365, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power have all agreed to this proposal, which has been put forward by the Remote Gambling Agency (RGA) that they are all part of.

The decision has been welcomed by Christian campaigners on the issue, including the Bishop of St Alban's, Dr Alan Smith, who praised them with reservations: "I think its a very welcome first step but we do need to see the details because it's not every gambling company and we don't know exactly what it's going to mean.

"Whilst I think it's every good that pre-watershed we're not going to have...gambling advertising. Of course there will be gambling adverts both written around the sides of the pitch and on many of the players' shirts - so there's still going to be quite a strong gambling theme for many major sporting events."

Bishop Alan has been speaking out on this issue for years and added that gambling is changing the nature of sport, from being about competition and seeing the skill in out-manoeuvring one another, to become gambling-centric.

"I know two families who've made a conscious decision that they're not going to let their young children watch live football anymore because they don't want them to be conditioned into thinking that an essential and fundamental part of sport and enjoying sport is gambling".

He argued live gambling updates have corrupted sport without consent and that the industry needed a major reform. He favoured them self-regulating but said if they don't the government should step in to protect people who might be vulnerable, such as children.

The Christian social policy charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) have also been lobbying politicians on this issue, their spokesperson James Mildred told Premier:

"This really is excellent news...anyone who watched the most recent world cup could not fail to notice just how many betting ads were being shown, often well before the 9 o'clock watershed.

He cited the Gambling Commission's latest figures, saying: "The number of child problem gamblers has quadrupled in recent times, there's now estimated to be as many as 55,000 11-16 years-olds who are addicted to gambling."

He added that the RGA decision is a step in the right direction but it needs to be monitored to make sure it actually happens and that more money should be given to gambling addiction programmes by the companies.

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