British MP’s call for gambling ads to come with addiction warnings

Demand for British betting firms to display health labeling

A cross-party group of MP’s and peers have raised concerns about levels of addiction and the potential harm of betting. The proposed crackdown calls for gambling to be treated as a public health issue, and would see gambling companies treated like tobacco firms and forced to display health warnings about the potential dangers associated with betting.

Companies would be required to omit suggestions that betting is fun. They also call for a ban on gambling ads during live sporting events to prevent bookmakers from reaching young views before the watershed.

The group, which includes shadow culture secretary Tom Watson and former Tory minister John Hayes, states that the current regime in which “the onus of social responsibility remains subject to the self-regulation of the licensee is not working”. It says that rules around betting ads are being flouted by the gambling industry, claiming that loopholes in the law mean they are doing so “without fear of meaningful sanction”

Watson said: “Gambling addiction is Britain’s hidden epidemic. It’s time to start treating this as the public health crisis it is.”

In an open letter to culture secretary Matt Hancock, it demands sweeping measures to ensure “greater compliance, fairness and social responsibility in the advertising and licensing of gambling”. Politicians including Watson, Hayes and former Lib Dem minister Don Foster, as well as the lord bishop of St Albans, have put their names to a series of proposals to tighten the rules on gambling companies, drawn up by the ResPublica think tank.

“Gambling advertising should be consistent with other types of addictive or harmful products to public health such as cigarette packs, by featuring clearly identifiable health warnings that cannot be absorbed into an advert’s overall design. The wording of gambling advertisements is a problem because words such as ‘win’ and ‘fun’ are emphasised rather than ‘harm’, thus normalising the idea of gambling as a leisure pursuit rather than an addiction.”

The proposals would see Britain take a similar approach to that in New Zealand, where gambling policy is handled by the Department of Health.

The number of over-16s who have a problem with gambling is thought to have risen by a third in three years, with about 430,000 sufferers in 2015.

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