17,000 jobs riding on Gambling Bill' - Saturday 12th of March 2005

The British economy would lose at least ??2bn of business and as many as 17,000 jobs if the Gambling Bill fails, the UK's internet betting industry has warned.

The Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (IGGBA) says without the Gambling Bill, which will regulate online gambling for the first time, internet betting companies will stay away from Britain. As a result, the country could lose out on profits, taxes and investment worth up to ??2bn.

IGGBA estimates that a competitive regulated industry in the UK, as brought about by the Gambling Bill, could bring up to 15 per cent of the ??6bn global online gambling market to the country. It says companies relocating to Britain would create about 17,000 jobs.

Richard Flint, the chairman, said: "The majority of the online gaming industry wants to operate in a regulated environment that ensures that there is control over unscrupulous operators and consumers are protected from fraud. Regulation will also ensure safeguards against children and problem gamblers using online betting sites. The current law was written in the 1960s, before the internet. This Bill is needed to establish a proper basis for the industry."

The Gambling Bill, however, is running out of Parliamentary time in the run-up to the general election. There are hundreds of amendments to the Gambling Bill still to be discussed in the House of Lords, while significant areas of contention exists between the parties, particularly on casino policy. Some industry sources believe that Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, is planning to block the Bill to embarrass the Government, regardless of the benefits brought by regulating online gambling.

Mr Flint also said regulating internet gambling as quickly as possible was increasingly important while a number of companies line up to float on the London stock market. Party Gaming, behind the PartyPoker brand, could be worth as much as ??3bn on listing. Cassava Enterprises, behind the 888.com brand, is also mulling a float.

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