A senior Treasury minister has admitted the government depends on Customs & Excise leaning on ISPs to enforce its ban on hosting foreign bookies' websites.
Paymaster general Dawn Primarolo said she relied on the ‘persuasive powers of Customs and Excise’ to ‘educate’ ISPs that carrying the websites of overseas bookies breaks UK and EU law.
She said the government is entitled under a European Court of Justice ruling to limit the distribution of material about the lottery and protect UK betting customers from ‘unwittingly betting with unregulated offshore bookmakers and brokers’ and protect Exchequer revenue.
Primarolo was defending a clause in the Finance Bill, currently under detailed debate in Commons, which extends the scope of the ban making it illegal to distribute, issue, circulate or be in possession of material advertising the services of overseas bookies and bet brokers.
The minister refused to explain what would happen in hypothetical situations but claimed the ban on advertising, though ‘hardly ever used’, was necessary to have it in place.
She explained: ‘Of course, it is not always necessary to go as far as prosecution. When companies have breached the law in the past, what is politely called “education and advice” from customs officers has generally been sufficient to rectify the situation, and that approach will continue.’
She added: ‘The provision is fully square with UK and European law.’