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UK Gambling Laws Overhauled – October 1st, 2005

Casino NewsNew rules on gambling have come into force in the industry’s biggest overhaul since the 1960s. It is now easier to join a casino but a new regulator called the Gambling Commission aims to ensure that betting is fair, safe and socially responsible. On Monday an independent panel will start work on deciding the location of the UK’s first “super casino”.

Opponents fear the changes will lead to an explosion in problem gambling, especially among vulnerable people. But Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has said the UK will have the most heavily regulated gambling industry in the world.

The new commission will aim to keep organised crime out of the industry and to regulate online betting. The most controversial aspect of the overhaul is the government’s plan to set up a Las Vegas-style casino. It had originally proposed 40 “super casinos” but cut this under pressure from the Conservative Party.

Locations will be decided by the five-member Casino Advisory Panel and speculation has centred on Blackpool and Glasgow – wherever the location, it is unlikely to open before 2009. While many tip Blackpool as the location, others are concerned about the effect such a huge facility could have on the local community.

Stuart Furnival, of Blackpool Central Methodist Church, told BBC News: “There’s the glamour and the glitz at the front but behind that is the poverty. “Behind that are the problems that many people don’t see and I’m very concerned personally about the moral issues.”

In other changes, it will be possible to go straight into a casino and start betting – previously gamblers had to take out membership then wait 24 hours. Casinos will also be able to advertise for the first time. Slot machines will no longer be allowed where children can access them, such as in fast food outlets, and children will not be allowed into casinos.

However they will still be able to use fruit machines in arcades, which concerns opponents such as Captain Dean Pallant, of the Salvation Army. “They are low-stakes fruit machines, but still putting the money in and getting a reward is not a good behaviour to encourage,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“We’re also concerned about online gambling as this is mainly deregulated because it happens offshore. We’d encourage those companies to come within the UK and so that their activities can be regulated.

“Many people are exposed to the most addictive forms of gambling. Because they’re in their own homes, there’s nothing to stop them playing, they can use their credit cards. It’s really a likelihood that this will explode into a large number of problem gamblers.” Peter Dean, chairman of the Gambling Commission, says that although online gambling companies have been barred from operating in the UK, that will change over the next few years.

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