Campaigners say new rules regulating gambling advertising do not go far enough.
The Committees of Advertising Practice have drawn up new standards to be brought into force on 1 April which will prohibit the targeting of children online.
They will ban betting ads using celebrities likely to appeal to under-18s, featuring cartoon characters in online gambling games, and placing betting adverts on websites aimed at children.
However, while the Advertising Standards Authority is set to enforce the new regulations, it does not have the power to issue fines.
Bishop of St Albans the Rt Revd Alan Smith said the guidelines amounted to a “lost opportunity”.
“With little consequences for companies flouting the rules and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step up their approach.”
Matt Zarb-Cousin of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling also said the growing problem of children becoming hooked on betting needed to be tackled.
He said: “We have to decide whether we actually want to prevent gambling companies advertising to children, and if so we need to face up to the fact that much more can be done.”
He proposed banning all gambling adverts before the watershed, including around live sporting events – for which there is currently an exemption – and said this should also include shirt sponsors and stadium hoardings.
In a recent article for The Times, columnist Clare Foges hit out at the prevalence of gambling advertising, “and the fact that it is sucking in children”.
She said: “In the playground and in their bedrooms they are learning the pleasure of putting money on an unknown outcome, feeling their heart race, getting a taste of the highs.”
“Where is the outrage?”
Foges called for a “radical” overhaul of the gambling industry.
“Some will deride this as moral panic, but when children are being seduced into a lifetime of debt and mental health problems by a greedy, rapacious industry, then moral panic seems entirely the right response.”