Editorial: MPs have to take blame for gambling problem

It's a bit rich for MPs to be urging Google not to be carrying online gambling ads by appealing to the internet giant's better nature and asking it to consider its obligations on "corporate social responsibility".

Rich but inevitable. When the chamber in which those same MPs sit approved the 2005 Gambling Act removing virtually all restrictions on the promotion of lawful gambling in the UK, it was clear adland was about to be thrown a hospital pass.

The industry was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, it was allowed access to millions of pounds worth of potential extra revenue. On the other, it was being expected to promote a business whose expansion provoked not only controversy among the public but even within the government that swept away many of the controls on it.

Small wonder that the ad industry, already in the dock over its alleged role in fuelling obesity and binge-drinking, was nervous about having an extra charge of spreading social misery levelled against it. So much so that Baroness Peta Buscombe, the Advertising Association's outgoing chief executive, indicated she would like gambling ads to carry "health warnings". Buscombe clearly saw what would happen once the industry was put in such an invidious position. And recent events have proved her right.

The MPs contend that it's the wrong time to be running gambling ads when there's a recession. So when is the right time? Just as there will always be alcoholics, so there will always be gambling addicts. This seemed not to bother the Government unduly as it looked beyond the wrangles the legislation was bound to create to the extra tax revenue it would provide.

And, just to add to the hypocrisy of it all, the MPs say they back the view that Google's actions "risk normalising gambling in society". Wasn't that what the relaxation of the regulations was supposed to do?

As politicians line up to shoot the messengers, they might bear in mind that it was they who put them in the firing line.

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