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U.K. Plans Gambling Ads Ban

Britain plans to ban advertising from approximately 1,000 gambling Web sites located in countries that do not meet the U.K. government's regulatory standards. The ban would include sites from some of the most popular countries hosting online gambling operations.

Under the provisions of a new law set to be effective Sept. 1, countries that wanted to be exempt from the ad ban had to pass a U.K. assessment of their regulatory standards, including protections to stop underage gambling and keep the wagering fair. The ban does not apply to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Costa Rica and Belize, two of the world's more popular spots for online gambling operations, did not bother to apply. Antigua, which hosts more than 500 online gambling sites, has a pending application with the U.K.

The ban will apply to all forms of gambling advertising from excluded jurisdictions including TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, taxis, buses, subways and Web sites located in the U.K. If operators, publishers, broadcasters and advertising companies break the rules, they could face fines or even imprisonment.

"I make no apology for banning adverts for Web sites operating from places that don't meet our strict standards. Protection is my No. 1 priority," U.K. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport James Purnell said in a statement.

Only two British crown dependencies -- Alderney and the Isle of Man -- were able to demonstrate that they had a rigorous licensing regime in place.

"The fact that only Alderney and the Isle of Man have been able to meet the high standards demanded by our white-listing criteria shows how tough the Gambling Act is," Purnell said. "Indeed white listing has actually helped drive up regulatory standards in some countries."

Purnell particularly cited the Isle of Man for making "significant improvements" in its regulation of online gambling sites located in the country. All licensees, for instance, must make contributions to problem gambling research, education and treatment in line with requirement of U.K. operators.

The U.K. Gambling Act of 2005 bans companies based in countries, territories or jurisdictions outside the EEA from advertising foreign gambling in the UK, unless they can demonstrate that they have a satisfactory regulatory regime in place.

In addition to protecting children, the standards include rules on money laundering, financial audits and fair-tax principles. The countries were also rated on openness and equal availability and treatment of online gamblers.

According to the U.K. government, there are approximately 2,300 gambling Web sites worldwide. Antigua tops the list with 537 sites, followed Costa Rica (474), Canada's Kahnawake Indian reservation (401) and the Netherland Antilles (343).