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A group of more than 160 UK MPs have written to the Telegraph newspaper on Thursday to demand the government takes “bold” action to reform the gambling sector.

In the letter, the MPs and peers including Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader, Michael Grade, an ex-BBC chair, and 18 bishops warned that more than 55,000 children aged 11 to 16 were now gambling addicts.

In the run-up to the UK government’s white paper on gambling, due in the New Year, the MPs and peers wrote: “We are calling on the prime minister to be bold in delivering the gambling reforms needed to prevent harm across the country.”

Specifically, the group of MPs are keen to see measures put in place measures to curb the scale of betting. They want online limits brought in line with those in force in high streets, with gambling firms that failed to meet them or police them adequately at risk of losing their licences.

The maximum bet would be GBP2, tied to a spending limit of GBP100 a month, after which companies would have to apply strict affordability tests to the gambler to ensure they did not spend beyond their means.

The cross-party group also want to put to an end the “immoral” VIP schemes run by bookies, in which the company assigns an individual to privately manage VIP clients, offering a one-to-one service with bonuses and financial inducements to encourage betting.