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UK Gambling Commission launches probe into TV ‘gambling’ shows

The future of some of Britain's most popular television game shows could be at risk following a decision by the UK Gambling Commission to launch a probe into whether such presentations constitute gambling, the Daily Mail reported over the weekend.

Producers of the popular Deal Or No Deal show on Channel 4 were recently told by the Gambling Commission that the GBP250,000 jackpot games on the show could be breaking the law because they do not involve any element of skill, and ITV’s million pound Red Or Black?, developed by Simon Cowell, is also understood to have been hit by the investigation .

News of the probe has persuaded ITV to hold off on plans to relaunch the Play Your Cards Right show until the investigation has been completed and a clearer picture on the legality issue is available. The result could influence screening times, licensing requirements and format.

The Mail quotes one legal expert who opined that in order to comply with a gambling licence, Deal Or No Deal could be forced to move to a time slot after the 9pm television watershed; it could also face tight restrictions on the type of advertising allowed to be sold in the commercial breaks and the amount of pre-broadcast publicity it could generate.

“Channel 4 may then decide it would be simpler to cancel the show, than be constrained by so many restrictions,” the newspaper observes. Introduced in 2005, Deal or No Deal regularly attracts an audience of more than four million in its afternoon slot.

Justifying the Commission's probe, a government spokesman told the Mail:

“The Gambling Commission does not seem to think that there is any skill element to the show. Even though at the beginning of the show, contestants do not have to stake any of their own money, the argument is that once they’ve picked a box, which could contain a lot of cash, in subsequent rounds they are in effect gambling with their own money.”

The Commission is also understood to have raised issues over Red Or Black?, where contestants win GBP 1 million on the spin of a wheel.

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