Is the bookmakers’ Senet Group a case of ‘too little, too late’ or a positive step in the right direction?

Last Monday, Gala Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill announced their latest move to address public concerns about problem gambling in Britain with the establishment of an independent watchdog, Senet Group, to enforce minimum standards on advertising.

Those standards include the removal of all fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) adverts from shop windows, a promise to devote 20 per cent of window advertising to responsible gambling messages and a self-imposed ban on free bet offers on television before 9pm.

Even the bookmakers’ fiercest critics - and there are many -  greeted this as a positive move. While everyone noted that this is clearly a move to pre-empt any regulatory actions stemming from numerous advertising and licensing reviews, it would be crazy to criticise them for that. It is their failure to keep ahead of the game over the last two years that has got the bookies into such a sticky political situation.

Labour’s shadow minister for sport Clive Efford said it was a “welcome step” but added that it “needs to cover the whole industry” and “must be completely independent of any influence from within the industry and be free to carry out effective monitoring”.

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