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Call for mandatory betting levy

Gambling
17 May 2022
Gambling

Campaigners are calling for a statutory levy on the betting industry amid fears companies are not doing enough to protect at-risk punters.

Gambling companies have upped donations to industry-funded charity GambleAware this year, with £34.7m supplied to prevent problem gambling.

However, critics say this money is not enough to meet the scale of the problem, and point out that some companies sanctioned for failing to protect the vulnerable fail to donate anything.

Malta-based firm Genesis Global was fined £3.8m in December for social responsibility failings, including allowing an NHS nurse to gamble £245,000 in three months.

Liz Ritchie, co-founder of the charity Gambling with Lives, said: “Gambling companies pay what they want when they want and can withdraw funding for health information, research or treatment they’re not happy with.

“An independently administered statutory levy will ensure many more resources are available to prevent and treat this devastating illness and … free from the influence of the very companies causing that devastation.”

CARE supports the idea of a statutory levy on betting companies and called for this during scrutiny of gambling legislation in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

A review of evidence on gambling-related harms by the UK Govt published in September 2021 found:

  • The annual economic burden of harmful gambling is approximately £1.27 billion.
  • The overall estimated excess cost of health harms is estimated to be £961.3 million.
  • Financial harms focused on homelessness is estimated to be £62.8 million
  • The estimated excess cost of suicide is £619.2 million
  • The estimated excess cost of depression is £335.5 million
  • The estimated excess cost of alcohol dependence is £4.7 million
  • The estimated excess cost of illicit drug use is £2.0 million
  • The excess cost of employment-related harms is estimated to be £79.5 million

Speaking last year, Ross Hendry, CEO criticised the government over repeated delays to a whitepaper on promised reforms of gambling laws. He commented:

“The government’s further delay to the long-awaited whitepaper is disastrous to those who need support and protection. It was promised at the end of last year. For each month it is held back, much-needed reforms are blocked, leading to continued and serious harms to individuals across the UK.

“Tens-of-thousands of people are locked in betting addiction today. This manifests in depression, alcohol and drug use, debt, homelessness, unemployment, and even suicide. The government must recognise that lives are being ruined every day it fails to act.

“The sheer scale of harms results from our permissive laws, which fail to hold the betting industry to account and protect the most vulnerable. Ministers must publish their whitepaper now, allow parliament to do its work, and see the changes so many are asking for become a reality.”

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While for some, gambling is just harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes genuine devastation. Our vision is to see laws passed that will help protect vulnerable problem gamblers.

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