Government in danger of failing vulnerable people on gambling, say churches

The Salvation Army and The Methodist Church said today thatdespite some safeguards, the Government's gambling proposals arestill likely to cause a rise in problem gambling. The two churches,which have consistently argued for better protection for vulnerablepeople, feel that the expansion of a leisure activity is stillbeing given precedence over the welfare of thousands of peoplewhose lives are ruined by problem gambling.

Rachel Lampard, Secretary for Parliamentary and PoliticalAffairs for the Methodist Church said,  "The parliamentaryJoint Committee on the Draft Gambling bill echoed our fears thatproblem gambling would rise as a result of some of the measuresincluded in the Draft bill. We are disappointed, therefore, thatthe Government still sees more problem gambling as an acceptableprice to pay for more gambling opportunities. "

Jonathan Lomax, Public Affairs Officer for The Salvation Armyadded, "There is absolutely no public demand for a liberalisationof the UK's gambling regulations. An NOP poll commissioned by TheSalvation Army* found that 93% of the public felt that there wereenough opportunities to gamble in the UK already. This lack ofdemand begs the question as to why potentially harmful expansion istaking place."

The two churches are pleased that the Government has listened toconcerns expressed by churches, charities and academics, and nowproposes removing fruit machines from unlicensed premises such asfish and chip shops and mini cab offices. However, there isdisappointment that children and young people will still be allowedto play fruit machines in some arcades.         
"It is very disappointing that the Government proposes to maintainBritain's unique position in the world in allowing children togamble on low-value fruit machines," commented Jonathan Lomax fromThe Salvation Army. "By removing fruit machines from unlicensedpremises the Government has already accepted that fruit machinesare unsafe for children. If this is the case, the Government mustexplain why they are safe in arcades where children are free toenter without an adult."

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church, which gave oralevidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill, arepleased that the Government will place a cap on the number ofunlimited prize fruit machines allowed in regional casinos."Research indicates that these machines, which have unlimitedstakes and prizes, are amongst the most addictive forms ofgambling. The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church believe thatit is vital to cap the number of these machines, but think that thecap must be set at a much lower level so that these new machinesare introduced into the UK very cautiously," commented RachelLampard.

On the issue of social responsibility, Rachel Lampard continued,"When granting licences the Gambling Commission must examine anoperator's demonstrable commitment to social responsibility,alongside standards of corporate integrity and financial probity.Social Responsibility has to be at the heart of the bill to limitthe harm that gambling can cause in people's lives. "

Commenting on the Government's inclusion of a reserve power toremove alcohol from gaming floors if it leads to an increase inproblem gambling, Jonathan Lomax from The Salvation Army said,"Gambling of any kind requires advanced mental processes, all ofwhich are impaired by the consumption of alcohol. We believe theintroduction of alcohol to casino gaming floors is a mistake thatcan only lead people to lose more money. This view is supported by82% of the population who think that people are more likely to losemoney if they drink alcohol while gambling. The reserve power toremove alcohol from gaming floors included in the Government'sproposal is completely inadequate, as it allows a problem to emergefirst before addressing it."    


*NOP poll was conducted by telephone between 28-30th November 2003amongst a nationally representative sample of 973 adults aged 18and over. This was published on 10 Dec 2003 and can be found at www.salvationarmy.org.uk/news

· The Salvation Army is an international Christian churchworking in 109 countries worldwide. As a registered charity, TheSalvation Army demonstrates its Christian principles through socialwelfare provision and is one of the largest, most diverse providersof social welfare in the world. The Salvation Army has over 1.5million members and 88,000 employees. Programmes include homelesscentres, drug rehabilitation centres, schools, hospitals, medicalcentres, as well as nearly 16,000 churches. Website: www.salvationarmy.org.uk

· The Methodist Church is the third larges denomination inBritain and there are over 70 million Methodists worldwide. The Church has a long-standing commitment to "social holiness"which is expressed through welfare projects across the country andan involvement in contemporary social and political issues. Website: www.methodist.org.uk