The UK Labour Party is expected to announce plans for a compulsory industry levy, which will fund the treatment of problem gambling.
UK media reports that the levy plan is being spearheaded by Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who will unveil the policy later today during his Labour 2017 Party Conference speech in Brighton.
Under Watson’s plans, a compulsory gambling levy is needed to raise funds for the NHS’ treatment of gambling addiction and research. Watson is further expected to propose Labour’s tougher stance on gambling, in which Party leadership believes that some operators are ‘deliberately targeting the UK’s poorest communities’.
Labour’s new levy proposal will not surprise industry stakeholders, as Watson who further acts as Shadow Culture Secretary stated this September that ‘gambling should be treated like the tobacco sector’, restricting operators advertising and sponsorship verticals available to operators.
With regards to gambling prevention, UK licensed gambling firms are currently urged to make ‘voluntary contributions’ to dedicated charities such as GambleAware, one of the few organisations focused on the education, prevention, research and treatment of gambling addiction as a mental illness.
In 2017, GambleAware failed the reach its industry funding target of £10 million. The Charity states that it has been working with UK operators with the aim of securing a 10p donation from every £100 of betting profit.
Marc Etches Chief Executive of GambleAware commented on BBC Radio 4 Today Programme;
“We welcome Labour’s intention to review this just as much as we welcome the current Government review. Problem gambling and gambling-related harm is a public health issue, and what GambleAware would like to see is not just the involvement of the NHS, but actually other agencies, from Public Health England, downward, right across our communities to better understand that problem gambling is a mental health issue and this issue affects not only the individuals themselves, but their family and friends around them, so we all have an interest in doing something about this.”
When questioned by the BBC on necessary funding levels needed to tackle UK problem gambling, Etches responded
“Well, the Gambling Commission, the regulator, is currently reviewing the arrangements around research, education and treatment. Our trustees have made it very clear that if the current voluntary system is seen by everybody to be failing, they would support a compulsory levy, we’re about to make a submission to the Gambling Commission, and I would hope we’d hear back from them later this year.”
Reacting to Labour’s position, Industry body The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), has stated that it will support any ‘evidence-based approach to helping problem gambling’.
“We also would not oppose an appropriate, compulsory levy on the gambling industry to fund problem gambling treatment, as we have long argued that the gambling industry needs to work together to reduce the number of problem gamblers and address the fact that most problem gamblers move between different forms of gambling.” The ABB commented.
At present, the NHS has one dedicated ‘National Problem Gambling Clinic’ (based in Fulham, London) focused solely on the treatment of problem gambling. Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson is expected to take the main stage at the Labour Party Conference at 5 pm UK time today.