UK gambling reforms criticized
By Paul
The rush to liberalize the UK’s gambling laws has drawn criticism of the government from some sources, after revelations that a donor to the ruling Labour party may benefit from the reforms. Now, the reformers have drawn more flak with the news that pleas from the former head of the gaming board to maintain the present ban on gambling by credit card have been ignored.

Lady Littler, who chaired the gaming board from 1992 to 1998, asked Tessa Jowell, secretary of state at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, not to scrap the ban on credit cards. According to the Guardian (UK) : Lady Littler advised the government that: 'Many individuals and their families are tempted by easy access to credit, cannot manage their finances and juggle between (several) credit cards. Some cards are issued irresponsibly; some have no limits.'

She said the gambler's urge to chase losses puts 'high pressures on people to run up debts they cannot afford'.

Littler’s concern about credit cards is shared by Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent university. 'It's very worrying. You lower the psychological value of money. That's why stores have store cards, because people buy more with them,' he said.

The Gaming Act has tightly regulated casinos in the UK since 1968. But the Budd report, published in 2001, proposed the scrapping of membership delays; higher jackpots for slot machines in casinos; serving of alcohol on the gaming floor; and to permit advertising. Credit cards would be accepted for gaming chips. All these recommendations were enthusiastically accepted by the government, leading some critics to complain that the government’s ties to business have been the driving force behind the reforms. Prof. Griffiths says: 'There's been some political lobbying and it's worked.'

Despite warnings that more research into problem gambling was needed before reforms, the government has moved fast to deregulate the gaming industry. Even David Beeton, director general of the British Casino Association, admits: 'It has come as quite a shock to see how radical the changes might be.'

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