Plan for gambling ads to be dropped

Tony Blair’s plans to allow betting shops and internet gambling websites to advertise on television and radio are set to be ditched.

Blair and Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary, had planned legislation that would have removed the ban.

The change of policy, indicated by James Purnell, the new culture secretary, is a further sign that Gordon Brown has abandoned the widespread liberalisation of gambling planned by his predecessor.

Last week the prime minister surprised the Commons by announcing he was reconsidering a scheme for Las Vegas-style supercasinos, the first in Manchester.

The proposals to end the ban on advertisements for betting shops, gaming websites and slot machines had provoked opposition from church leaders who warned it would lead to more problem gambling.

Purnell, in his first interview since joining the cabinet two weeks ago, said: “That was one of the concerns people have mentioned and one of the things that, as a new minister in this area, I will be going through methodically to see if the concerns are legitimate.

“It is important to have a thorough review of all the evidence.”

The minister also said he would be reviewing the full range of proposed gambling legislation. It is understood he has the authority of the prime minister to ditch the plans.

Purnell defended the decision to look again at supercasinos. “I think you have to have an effective regulatory structure and I wanted to look at the concerns that people had expressed and go through the act methodically to make sure that we had good answers to those worries,” he said.

The supercasino proposal reached an impasse in parliament after the Lords voted it down in March. Purnell signalled that proposals for 16 smaller casinos would be allowed to go ahead, as there had been a “clearer consensus” among MPs and peers about those plans.

In a wide-ranging interview Purnell refused to embroil himself in the row between the BBC and Buckingham Palace over suggestions the Queen flounced off in a “huff” during a sitting with a photographer.