BHF seals partnership with Gala

The British Heart Foundation has formed a partnership with Europe's largest gambling operator.

The link-up is the first charity partnership for Gala Casinos and will run until October 2005 at the earliest. The group's 3,300 staff and 200,000 active members will be encouraged to support the charity by taking part in fundraising events such as the London to Brighton bike ride in June and the Real Valentine and Heart Week campaigns.

Despite the effects that gambling is commonly supposed to have on people's hearts and blood pressure, a spokeswoman for the foundation denied there was any conflict of interest in the deal.

She said the charity would be working with Gala's staff and customers and would not be promoting or encouraging gambling in any way.

"Our primary concern is to continue to fight heart disease and to continue to do that we need funding," she said. "We weigh up every partnership we consider entering into and we are very pleased to be working with Gala.

"Our senior management closely scrutinises all partnerships and we have a number of checks and balances to ensure they adhere to our strict guidelines."

Gala is the largest gambling operator in Europe. It has more than 165 bingo clubs and 28 casinos in the UK alone, claiming 40 per cent market share.

BHF's other corporate partners include Tetley Tea, Shredded Wheat, Cannons Health and Fitness Clubs, MBNA Europe Bank and Princes Foods.

Douglas Rouse, the foundation's head of corporate fundraising, said: "There are 2.7 million people living in the UK today with heart disease and, by choosing to work with us, Gala Casinos has committed itself to making a difference to those people's lives and to those people who may be affected in the future."

Nick Potter, managing director of Gala Casinos, said: "The work carried out by the BHF is essential in helping to raise awareness and encourage people to take preventative measures against heart and circulatory diseases. We look forward to what I'm sure will be a fun and prosperous relationship."

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