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I receive receipts for paying my congestion charge on my mobile phone. I am not
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required to retain those receipts for a particularly lengthy periodin a sense, it is my choice if and when I want to have a battle about my congestion charge. The Minister has indicated that it is necessary to store electronic information. How long would somebody have to store such information if they were to use, for instance, a mobile phone or interactive TV?
Mr. Caborn: I should make it absolutely clear that the Government amendment will allow lotteries to operate by mobile phone and other remote media. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about the storing of information and the time for which it will run, and place that correspondence in the Library. I have no doubt that that issue will be taken up by the gambling commission.
We need to close the loophole in relation to non-school competitions that lead to a draw. Clause 14(5) provides that where the first stage in a competition is multiple choice or involves a derisory level of skill or knowledge, it is classed as a lottery.
Mr. Griffiths: I shall be brief. New clause 8 would bring casinos within the laws that apply to shops under the Christmas day trading legislation. I hope that that will not cause a problem. I thought that while I was doing that, I would propose that the gambling commission be given the power to decide whether it would be right for casinos to close on any other day of the year, especially if there was a big groundswell of opinion regarding a particular day.
Amendment No. 99 underscores the issue of problem gambling. As it stands, the Bill allows people to use credit cards to raise money in order to gamble in casinos. I am completely opposed to that. According to Gamblers Anonymous, someone who is involved in problem gambling often has six or seven credit cards with which they can play about and run up debts that we can hardly bear to think about. My amendment would ensure that someone who is gambling could not raise money with their credit card. It is okay if they use their debit card to get money from their bank account, although I would not like to do it myself, but if they use a credit card they can build up huge debts.
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Mr. Caborn: I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) for tabling new clause 8. As he knows, I have met faith groups several times during the passage of the Bill, and I have sympathy with their concerns about gambling on Christmas day. At present, betting offices and betting tracks are prohibited from offering bets on Good Friday and Christmas day. There is no equivalent prohibition in relation to gaming or lotteries.
Times have moved on since that restriction was put in place in the 1960s, so the Government did not propose that it be replicated in the Bill. However, I recognise the strength of feeling about Christmas day in particular, and I am happy to agree that it might be appropriate to enable the commission to prescribe certain days on which operators should be prevented from providing facilities for gambling. I am therefore happy to give the issue further consideration, but in the meantime I ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the new clause.
On amendment No. 99, I understand my hon. Friend's concerns, but we see no reason for imposing a blanket ban on all operators to prevent them from offering credit to their players. We agree that such matters must be regulated; that is what clause 79 is intended to do. It gives the commission the powers to attach appropriate conditions to licensing; to control when and, indeed, how credit is offered, and where inducements to gambling are perhaps provided. The clause expressly prevents casinos and bingo operators from offering credit to players. That is currently the law and will remain the law.
The Gaming Board has a successful track record of controlling improper inducements and I am sure that the new gambling commission will continue that. If problems emerge in future, the gambling commission will not hesitate to impose licence conditions that better protect consumers. I hope that, with those reassurances, my hon. Friend is content to withdraw the motion.
I ask the Minister to think again about his refusal to prescribe in the Bill days on which gambling may not take place. It is odd that we protect people from having to open shops on specific days, yet we are not prepared to do the same for gambling establishments. Times may have moved on since 1960, but I am not sure whether they have always moved in the right direction. However, decisions about shop opening times were made much later than the 1960s and the Minister was one of those who took a strong view about protection for specific days. Is it reasonable to ask the gambling commission to do that? If that is all that we can get, I suppose that it is okay, but I should like the Minister to reconsider and ascertain whether the same restrictions that pertain elsewhere can be introduced in another place for gambling. Perhaps the gambling commission can also be given the ability, as the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) suggests, to extend that further. It would be odd not to do that, and the Minister goes in not for the odd but for the sensible and moderate answer.
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Mr. Griffiths: In this case, I believe that I can rely on the direction that the Government are taking and, although it is not especially pleasant to look to the other place to put things rights, at least we will get the provision, and I am therefore happy for us to proceed to the next group of amendments.
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