Ministers want gambling laws rethink

A GROUP of ministers in Colchester have joined together in calling for the Government to rethink new laws that would allow children to play on slot machines.

By Roddy Ashworth

A GROUP of ministers in Colchester have joined together in calling for the Government to rethink new laws that would allow children to play on slot machines.

Father John Stather, of St James the Great, Deacon Jane Mason, of Colchester Methodist Church, the Rev Catherine Bowstead, of Castle and Highwoods Methodist Churches, the Rev Ken Forbes, of Lion Walk United Reformed Church and the Rev Fred Woods, of St Botolph's and St Peters Anglican Churches, signed a petition asking for an amendment of the Gambling Bill.

The bill, which is due to be heard in the House of Lords today, would allow children as young as eight to play for cash on gaming machines.


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The ministers signed the petition, which was instigated by the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and NCH The Children's Charity, at a Lent lunchtime service held at Colchester's United Reformed Church.

The amendment would stop children playing low prize fruit machines, but still allow them to carry on playing on teddy-bear grabbing machines and penny falls.

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Yesterday Bob Finch, secretary of Churches Together in Colchester, said: "Since showing people the petition, it has become quite clear to me that people don't like the idea of small children starting their gambling life at such a young age.

"I appreciate the fact that these aren't high powered machines, but they are the beginning of something that can be addictive and destructive."

Salvation Army officer Jonathan Lomax said: "It is very disappointing that the Government proposes to maintain Britain's unique position in the world in allowing children to gamble on fruit machines.

"The Gambling Bill in its present form fails to address this despite the Government agreeing that children and gambling don't mix.

"It is not too late for the Government to change the regulations relating to children and gambling.

"This petition will show the depth of feeling that there is in the country for this serious issue. The Government must take seriously its duty of child protection."

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