Simon Stevens – Betting should pay ‘NHS tab’ on problem gambling

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has stated that UK licensed betting operators should compulsory fund the treatment of problem gambling networks across the UK.

Stevens is the latest UK public health figurehead to call for the government to implement a ‘mandatory levy’ on UK betting incumbents, stating that it would be unfair for taxpayers to ‘pick-up the huge tab for the expansion of NHS services’ tackling problem gambling.

The NHS England chief’s statement comes as UK health networks prepare to launch a new directive tackling problem gambling amongst 13-to-25-year-olds.

A ‘National Problem Gambling Clinic’ tailored towards supporting younger patients aged 13-to-25 is set to open in Sunderland later this year as part of a new NHS long-term strategy.

The Sunderland Clinic forms part of the NHS launch of 14 gambling harm-specific clinics across the UK, developed with the aim of identifying and tackling ‘problem gambling behaviours’ amongst younger individuals.

Warning industry leadership, Stevens lambasted betting firm’s minimal spending on problem gambling, noting that betting firms had spent £1.5 billion on UK advertising, whilst contributing just £10 million towards addiction treatment.

‘This is an industry that splashes £1.5billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, much of it now pumped out online and through social media, but it has been spending just a fraction of that helping customers deal with the direct consequences of addiction”.

Highlighting UK health concerns that + 450,000 11-to-16 year olds gamble regularly, with underage addiction quadrupling to 55,000 in the past two-years – Stevens states that the ‘sums just don’t add up and that is why as well as a voluntary action is needed’.

Addressing health concerns, last week the governances of bet365, William Hill Plc, Flutter Entertainment, Sky Bet and GVC Holdings sent a joint communication to UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright (DCMS), committing to ‘voluntary contributions of 1% of gross-gaming-yield revenues funding UK problem gambling addiction, treatment and research initiatives for a period of 5-years.

Industry trade body the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), has stated that it members will support NHS developments, with Chief Executive Wes Himes publishing the following statement –

‘We support the creation of new NHS gambling clinics which will supplement existing services delivered by the Gordon Moody Association, GamCare’s 120 treatment centres and their youth outreach programme.”

‘Through continued funding by our industry over more than 20 years, these charitable services are able to provide free of charge support for anyone affected by gambling.’

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