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Plans To Force Betting Companies To Fund Gambling Harms Support Could Be Dropped

Slot machines (Credit: Tony Smith / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

A proposed statutory levy on betting firms that would make it a legal requirement to fund research and support around gambling that is expected to be included in the government's landmark gambling White Paper has been called into question, PoliticsHome understands.

Gambling companies currently pay a voluntary levy towards funding research, education initiatives and treatment for gambling harms. A statutory levy would make it a licensed condition for all gambling companies operating in the United Kingdom to make a contribution.

The publication of a white paper exploring gambling reforms has been long-awaited by those in the industry after it appeared in the Conservative Party's 2019 manifesto, with debates around whether to include a statutory levy said to be a reason for the paper's delay.  The paper is now expected to land within weeks, but it is uncertain whether the statutory levy has survived.

Campaigners have argued that a 1 per cent statutory levy could bring in around £130m annually. According to figures from GambleAware, more than 680 gambling companies voluntarily donated just £34.7m to the charity in the year to 31 March 2022.

However, chair of the Peers for Gambling Reform group, Lord Foster, has expressed concern that some within government are reticent to introduce a statutory levy.

“We may be wrong on this, but our understanding is that the Treasury have now indicated that they would be opposed to it," he told PoliticsHome.  

"We have obviously written to the Treasury and to all the relevant people explaining why we think the Treasury are wrong.”

GambleAware (Credit: Andrew Paterson / Alamy Stock Photo)
GambleAware (Credit: Andrew Paterson / Alamy Stock Photo)

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told PoliticsHome they did not comment on "speculation". 

"We are determined to protect those most at risk of gambling-related harm and are working to finalise details of our review," they said. 

"The white paper will strengthen our regulatory framework to ensure it is fit for the digital age."

The treasury declined to add further comment.

Research suggests that just below three per cent of adults in the United Kingdom are problem gamblers, and just under one per cent of 11-16 year-olds are problem gamblers. 

Critics point to the 2005 Gambling Act as a reason for these figures, arguing that the legislation has not kept pace with the rate of technological development, and that online gambling requires its own set of definitions. It is hoped that the Gambling White Paper will bring about vital reforms to the online gambling space.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital Economy Chris Philp, the Peers for Gambling Reform group highlights the statutory levy as one of five “essential reforms” that it thinks should be made in the Gambling White Paper.

These include an independent verifier to employ an affordability assessment scheme, the introduction of stake limits for online betting, the reduction of gambling advertising and the creation of a gambling ombudsman. 

In a speech to the the Betting and Gaming Council Annual General Meeting last month, gambling minister Paul Scully said the government was a "matter of weeks away" from publishing the White Paper, and that they were in the final process of "nailing down details and implementing reforms".

But Lord Foster expressed concern that its publication was taking too long, and that the impact of delay could be devastating for those affected by gambling. 

“The real worry is that we've one gambling related suicide every single day," he said.

"So the sooner we have [the White Paper] the sooner we can start looking at the action that will stem from it. We simply cannot afford to wait any longer.”

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