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New gambling ad standards don't go far enough, say Christian campaigners

by Cara Bentley

They state that celebrities, sportspeople and TV characters who appear to be under 25 will be banned from being used in gambling adverts.

'Influencers' online will have to prove that their fan-base is less than 25% under 18 year-olds for them to endorse gambling.

The new standards are a response to the growing concern at the number of child gamblers reported to exist in the UK (estimated 450,000 11-16 year olds according to the Gambling Commission) and follow a review of the evidence on advertising's impact on under-18s and rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA have previously banned adverts which use animated characters thought to particularly appeal to children.

The latest guidance, drawn up by the Committees of Advertising Practice will come into force from 1st April but the news has been met with dissatisfaction from the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Alan Smith, who has brought up the issue of gambling several times in the House of Lords.

He told Premier why: "They haven't changed any actual rules, these are simply new guidelines and so far the gambling industry has shown itself either unwilling or uncapable of self-regulation".

Bishop Alan said: "The most important thing we need is to make sure there are proper sanctions for the existing rules because when you look at some of the other industry regulators - such as Ofcom and Ofwhat - they not only have very great powers but they are able to find people who transgress.

"We have quite a number of examples which are well recorded and reported in the press where gambling companies, either intentionally or accidentally have absolutely crossed the line in what they've done and there's virtually no sanctions taken against them".

The Christian lobby group CARE (Christian, Action, Reasearch and Education) recently helped fight for a reduced maximum stake at fixed odd betting terminals, something the Government decided to adopt last year.

CARE's spokesperson James Mildred told Premier his thoughts on the new proposals: "While I accept it's a good thing these new regulations are coming in, that mean that celebrities and influencers that look 25 or younger will no longer be able to be used, nevertheless, we have to recognise that celebrities that are older than 25 also do appeal to young people".

He added: "Look at the watershed, look at making sure, the same way we have a 9 o'clock watershed for content that's shown on TV, that should apply to gamblilng advertising as well".

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