Online gaming and ‘sinister’ advertising that lures children and young people into the world of gambling is one of the main priorities for councillors.

East Ayrshire Council was discussing its response to the UK Government’s consultation on reforming the Gambling Act.

Councillor Sally Cogley, who was the chair of the working group set up to look at the problem in East Ayrshire, said: “This was cross-party and cross-ward and we all worked extremely well together, with no divisions along party political lines.”

Cllr Cogley highlighted two points raised in the consultation response.

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“We’ve asked for a further review of advertising and marketing through handheld and digital devices.

“They were targeted at younger people and children who we deemed to be particularly vulnerable to this kind of rather sinister advertising

“The reality is that we don’t consider land-based gambling as the main issue in respect of problem gambling.

“We were more concerned with unrestricted and unregulated online gambling and again particularly where this was directed at children and young people.”

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Cllr Cogley said that this was the reason why they wanted to engage with East Ayrshire’s young persons cabinet.

Labour Councillor Kevin McGregor commented: “I think  it has been a real eye-opener just how much gambling is a problem and how it permeates every aspect of society, especially preying on those most vulnerable.

“The real eye opener is these and the seemingly innocuous online games that are almost schooling them.”

He said that this could lead to a ‘seemless transfer’ from playing a ‘wee game’ to being something far more serious.

SNP Councillor Neal Ingram continued the focus on gaming and young people.

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He said: “I can see by the conclusions that you’re wanting to to open up and ask the children and young people cabinet to have a look at it from their perspective.

“One of the things that that kind of jumped out to me was online gaming.

“In normal online games you can make in-game purchases. A lot of these in-game purchases can be randomly generated, so you might need to continually try to upgrade your character.

”I just wanted to to ask if that was something that the group had looked at?”

Provost Jim Todd replied: “That’s a very fair point, because some of these online games are enticing money out of folk. I have heard the horror stories from parents where their children have racked up a lot of money.”

Councillor Cogley confirmed that this was considered by the working group.

She added: “That’s why we want to refer this to the children and young people’s cabinet, because we were all acutely conscious of exactly the type of issue  that Neil has raised.

“That has hit the nail on the head. It is the insidious advertising that takes children from playing a game into actually gambling.”