Major changes to UK Gambling laws including a mandatory industry-wide tax should be put in place to fund the treatment of addiction, according to a new report.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the report claims that the economic costs arising from gambling-related harm have been ‘significantly underestimated’ and cited research which linked betting addiction to suicide.
It also proposed a new Gambling Act that would require gambling companies, instead of individuals, to reduce problem gambling. According to figures, there are more than 400,000 problem gamblers in the UK. Despite this, there exists only one specialist NHS clinic for the treatment of gambling addiction.
The academics behind the report go on to detail numerous problems in the area of gambling addiction treatment including a lack of funding. In 2018, the UK spent just £1.5m on the prevention of gambling harm per capita.
If a mandatory tax was put in place, the gambling industry would pay a voluntary fee that equates to a mere 0.1% of their overall revenues. When applied to the £14.4bn made by gambling companies last year, this voluntary levy could amount to as much as £14.4 million.
However, the UK Gambling Commission and Labour party, together with watchdog GambleAware are now calling for the introduction of an even higher mandatory tax which could raise more than £70m each year.
Despite claims from the Government that such a levy would not work, numerous studies including a 2016 paper by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, found that the public cost of problem gambling was greatly underestimated.
Dr Heather Wardle, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the lead author of the new report, claimed the harm from gambling was underestimated and placing significant burdens on resources, health and relationships. She went on to suggest that the only way to provide adequate funding was to impose a compulsory levy on the industry by conducting an overhaul of the Gambling Act 2005.
The report also put forward measures to curtail the ‘scale and sophistication’ of the industry’s marketing efforts which are bankrolled by an estimated £1.5b per year.
Further recommendations were made regarding which government department should be responsible for overseeing the gambling industry. Presently, it is the remit of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – the authors of the report however suggest the Department of Health and Social Care are a more viable alternative.