Gambling companies should be hit with a compulsory levy to fund treatment for gambling addicts, the head of mental health at the NHS suggests, pointing to the huge amount of profits for them while leaving the NHS to “pick up the pieces”.
Contribute More to Help Treat Addictions
The intervention from Claire Murdoch, director of National Mental Health at NHS England, seeks to overthrow the current voluntary system under which each operator decides how much it would contribute to help addicts.
“After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces.”Claire Murdoch, Director, National Mental Health, NHS England
Murdoch pointed to the fact that the 750 people with gambling addictions since April 2020 have been referred to clinics for treatment, and the health service believes this to be the tip of the iceberg and is planning to open more clinics across the country.
And Murdoch, who had a history of criticizing betting and gaming companies for their tactics of luring customers via VIP schemes and free bets, insists that the sector which generates £11 billion annually should take responsibility and contribute more than the “drop in the ocean” they contribute presently.
“The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS…The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”Claire Murdoch, Director, National Mental Health, NHS England
A report published last year revealed that only 3% of the total number of gambling addicts in the country found out to be between 300,000 and 1.4 million, seek specialist help, while the remaining majority usually rely on industry-funded helplines.
Mandatory Levy under Consideration
The call for a mandatory levy from the NHS director is not the first one as previously MPs, addiction experts and the Gambling Commission all sought to introduce the measure to help close the gap in financing, but with no success.
“The treatment and support services available for people with gambling addiction in this country are vastly underfunded. The industry should not get to decide when and how much they pay for the devastation they cause.”MP Carolyn Harris, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Harm
Making the levy compulsory was also backed by GambleAware, the charity which disburses the voluntary levy contribution, ranging between £10 million and £15 million a year, as some operators donate nominal sums just to ensure presence on the donor list.
It is understood that imposing a mandatory levy is among the measures discussed by the Government under the ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005 overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).