Warning to Methodist churches over online casino adverts

Methodist clergy have been warned that the hosting of churchwebsites on certain free Internet Service Providers (ISPs) runs therisk of flouting the Church's rules on advertising.

Certain ISPs offer free website hosting, making them seemattractive for small organisations like local churches with alimited budget. But, as a way of making these services viable, theISP will run advertisement boxes on the pages of the organisation'swebsite.

The customer has no right to object to which adverts are carriedon their website, so long as the adverts meet advertising standardsguidelines. But concern has now arisen over online adverts forcasinos and other gaming ventures, which cannot be promoted underMethodism's own regulations.

The Secretary of the Methodist Conference - Methodism'sparliament in Britain - has written to all of the 2,000 plusMethodist ministers across the country warning them of theproblem.

The letter by the Rev Nigel Collinson said: "Some churches havebeen offered space of the web to design their own sites. These samesites also advertise casino gambling. We need to be aware ofStanding Order 924(4), which says that Methodist premises may notbe used to advertise or promote any form of gambling which is notpermitted in Methodist churches."

Methodist officers have regularly called on the Government toensure the effective policing of online gambling, including thecreation of a kitemark for online gambling sites that meet rigorousstandards for customer care. Online gambling should feature safetychecks such as clocks, counters, pauses between games or requestsfor confirmation to continue, which should be prominentlydisplayed.

The Methodist Church has argued for the need for a strict codeon advertising by gaming businesses. Measures should includewarnings, similar to those found on cigarettes, mortgages andfinancial products. Prohibitions, similar to those placed onalcopops, should be used to prevent products appealing specificallyto children or young people.

The main website of the Methodist Church inBritain carries no adverts.