LONDON (Reuters) - Adverts promoting gambling will be allowed on television screens from Saturday, after new laws came into force.
The Gambling Act 2005, which replaces nearly all the existing gambling legislation some of which dates back to 1845, will govern arcades, bingo halls, casinos, bookmakers and remote gambling sites based in the UK.
They will be regulated by a new watchdog, the Gambling Commission, which will have the power to impose fines and prosecute any operator not complying with the rules.
It will be supported by 1,500 licensed local authority officers who will inspect gambling premises.
It is the first time operators will be able to advertise on TV, subject to a voluntary 9 a.m. watershed, though adverts can be shown during sports events.
Questions on phone-in quizzes on TV and radio will be made harder to prevent them operating like lotteries, while bingo clubs will be able to offer rollover jackpots.
The government, in an effort to stave off accusations of encouraging gambling, has made it compulsory for operators to display prominently information about responsible betting and details on how to get help for addiction.
The National Lottery will be regulated by separate bodies.
Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said the laws were necessary because previous legislation had not kept up with technological advances which have changed the way people gamble.
“TVs, home computers and mobile phones have become the digital equivalent of a betting slip and casino chip,” he said.
“The government brought in the Gambling Act because most of our laws were nearly 40 years old and these developments were going unchecked and unregulated.”
He said the new “unprecedented powers” would ensure gambling is conducted “fairly, children and vulnerable people are protected and crime is kept out”.
But the Conservative spokesman on gambling, Tobias Ellwood, speaking on BBC radio, questioned whether the act “has the teeth” to manage new types of gambling such as Internet gambling and games that could be sent to children’s mobile phones.