U.K. limits gambling advertisers

Palace Guards at Buckingham Palace, London

The list is out, and more than 1,000 online gambling sites may not be able to advertise in the United Kingdom when the Gambling Act comes into force Sept. 1.

Parliament has used new powers in the 2005 Gambling Act to ban gambling advertisements from companies operating outside the European Economic Area that haven't been given approval by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

Jurisdictions outside the EEA that wished to be exempt from the ad ban had to pass a stringent assessment of their regulatory standards. In an announcement from the department today, only Alderney and Isle of Man are approved jurisdictions.

They demonstrated that they had in place a licensing regime designed to stop children from gambling, protect vulnerable people, keep games fair and keep out crime.

"I make no apology for banning adverts for Web sites operating from places that don't meet our strict standards. Protection is my number one priority," said James Purnell, DCMS secretary.

"The fact that only Alderney and the Isle of Man have been able to meet the high standards demanded by our white listing criteria shows how tough the Gambling Act is. Indeed white listing has actually helped drive up regulatory standards in some countries."

He uses Isle of Man to prove his point.

"The Isle of Man, for example, has made significant improvements to their regulatory regime in order to secure a place on the white list," he said. "This includes requiring all licensees to make contributions to problem gambling research, education and treatment in line with requirement on U.K. operators."

Alexander Canadian Reservation, Netherlands Antilles and Tasmania all had their applications for exemption to the gambling ad ban rejected. Any online poker or casino businesses based there will not be able to advertise in the U.K.

Gambling operators in jurisdictions that didn't apply for exemption, such as Costa Rica and Belize, will also not be allowed to advertise in the United Kingdom after the new Gambling Act goes into affect.

Still waiting for approval or denial are Kahnawake, in Canada, and Antigua. Until they get approval, online gambling operations there will also not be allowed to advertise.

Antigua is considered to have the largest number of gambling operators. It has 537 of the estimated 2,300 world-wide online gambling sites. One of which is Bodog, which recently moved there from Costa Rica.

Bodog is planning a campaign to kick off its expansion into Europe later this year. Not being able to advertise in the United Kingdom could put a dent in its plans.

Costa Rica has the second largest amount of gambling sites with 474, and it didn't even apply for exemption.

Costa Rica is followed by Kahnawake, with 401 sites, and Netherlands Antilles, with 343 sites.

Full Tilt Poker is certified by Kahnawake, and it and several other major poker sites and casinos may be looking at a ban for advertising in the United Kingdom.

Gambling operators can choose to move from the "black listed" jurisdiction to the approved jurisdictions or to the EEA. The jurisdictions they move to will then have to reapply for a place on the "white list."

The ban will apply to all forms of advertising including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, taxis, buses, the tube and some Web sites. Operators, publishers, broadcasters and advertising companies caught break the rules could face fines or even imprisonment.

Those that are allowed to advertise in the United Kingdom will have to follow strict guidelines for advertising as well.

The Gambling Commission put in place rules and guidelines designed to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by advertising that features or promotes gambling.

These rules will go into effect Sept. 1 along with the Gambling Act.

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