Before being pushed, top UK Gambling companies offer up £60 million a year to assist problem gamblers
Around a month ago, NHS England’s Chief Executive Simon Stevens warned that a mandatory tax may be levied against big gambling operators to pay for treatment addiction.
Fast forward a month and five of the world’s most prominent gambling firms have upped their voluntary contributions tenfold to ward off any talk that they aren’t doing their bit.
William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair (Flutter Entertainment), Skybet and Bet365 have all agreed to raise their self-imposed levy from 0.1% of industry profits to 1% by 2023. With an industry currently making around £14.5 billion a year, that works out to around £60 million that goes towards funding the treatment of gambling addicts.
The UK Gambling Commission estimates that there are about 430,000 people in this country with serious gambling problems. Even more alarmingly, the GC reckons that if you include those at risk of addiction, this number rises to 2 million. And sadly, this number includes up to 55,000 youngsters between the age of 11 and 16.
CEO of Flutter Entertainment (aka Paddy Power Betfair), Peter Jackson (not that one), said the move demonstrated “an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration by the leading companies in the British betting and gaming sector to address gambling related harm.”
Speaking on the BBC Today Show, he did not mention any possibility that it was a cynical ploy to avert having to pay much greater sums in levied taxes.
So far, the move seems to have hit all the right notes with GambleAware’s Marc Etches applauding the move;
“We welcome this initiative by the leading operators as it’s essential there is sufficient funding to provide treatment and support for both problem gamblers and for those at are ‘at risk’ – particularly the young and the vulnerable.”
One person who is not totally convinced yet is Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. Rather than letting the sector completely off the hook, he said;
“We will monitor closely the progress of these new measures and encourage the wider industry to step up. The government will not hesitate to take further action to protect people from gambling related harm.”
This is very much in line with the current government’s hard stance on gambling operators in the United Kingdom. Recent populist measures have included the slashing of maximum FOBT (Fixed Odd Betting Terminal) stakes from £100 to just £2. This has proved very popular with parliament and the wider public, however it has proven difficult to implement due to the ramifications on the industry. It has yet to come into force.