Cabbies angry over gambling ad - Sunday 12th of June 2005

Norwich taxi drivers today branded the city council petty after they were banned from advertising a new gambling website on their cabs.

New adverts promoting an online poker company will not be displayed on hackney carriages in Norwich after councillors refused to give the scheme the go ahead.

The Ultimate Poker adverts, which show surreal pictures of half-breed animals, have been allowed in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The contract could have made Norwich cabbies £13,500 in advertising revenue.

But Norwich City Council banned the adverts which show the head of one animal on the body of another animal with the words 'What kind of poker animal are you?'

Adrian Ramsay, Green Party councillor, said: "My main concern was whether or not it was appropriate to advertise online gambling which is so accessible to children. Gambling can become a very serious addiction and it can ruin lives.

"We decided it was not appropriate for the council to promote this sort of gambling - especially because the internet is completely unregulated."

Jennifer Lay, representing Labour, said: "We were very concerned with the actual images. We didn't think that kind of design was appropriate for the city of Norwich - especially for children."

But cab drivers are furious that they will be losing out on yet more money because of the authorities.

According to drivers, the council has forced them to a point where many rely on advertising to subsidise their losses from closed ranks in Prince of Wales Road.

Cabbie Paul Jarrett, 44, said: "These adverts aren't offensive. The people at the council are so petty minded and backwards thinking.

"I don't want to be told what I can and can't do with my cab. We pay for our licences so I don't see why it is not up to the drivers what they advertise. "Gambling on the internet or in casinos is no different to playing the National Lottery and that is advertised everywhere.

"We're loosing money because the licences are getting more expensive and they have closed our ranks. We need money from advertising to make up for it.

"Other cities are using these adverts on cabs so I don't see why we should be left behind while everywhere else moves forwards. Times are changing and we need to keep up. I don't know how they expect us to make a living when they hold us back like this."

Trevor Ecclestone, 53, who has been driving cabs in Norwich for 30 years, said: "It's absolutely ridiculous. The designs are not offensive and if people want to gamble, they're going to do it whatever. We wouldn't be forcing people to gamble and you see adverts for it everywhere else."

Taxi Media, the company behind the adverts, said that the only other city to reject the designs was Oxford.

If the council had accepted the nine-month campaign, 20 drivers could have benefited from around £75 a month.

Andy Willis, operations manager at Taxi Media, said: "This decision is completely stupid. The only reason that these adverts were rejected was because of personal opinion - the adverts are perfectly legal but unfortunately it is down to local authorities to decide on.

"This ad campaign is solely directed at taxis, but we also solicit adverts for billboards so if the council rejects adverts in future, they could in theory go up on billboards regardless."

Mr Willis said that the revenue from the lost ad campaign would now be going to cabbies in Dundee.

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