Following the well documented criticism of gambling firms, some of the UK’s biggest firms have agreed to contribute more money towards treatment for problem gamblers.
William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair, Skybet and Bet 365 have all pledged to increase their voluntary levy on gambling profits from 0.1% to 1% up to 2023. If the firms follow through, this will be a contribution of £60m.
The firms have said the increase will be “a step change” in how they tackle addiction for in-store and online casinos.
Why the change and why now?
The promise to increase the voluntary levy comes amid criticism of the industry on how little it spends to help addicts, especially in comparison to the firms’ marketing budgets.
It was recently reported that the gambling industry failed to meet the voluntary levy set at 0.1% of profits. Many firms paid a token sum of as little as £5, just to ensure their name appeared on the list of those who had contributed.
Last month, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warned betting firms that they might start being taxed to fund addiction treatment. He condemned the “fraction” spent by industry on helping those struggling with addiction.
Although the companies have said they will spend £100m, cumulatively, on treatment over the next four years, some have dubbed the change a bribe. Some articles have suggested the sudden increase in donation is a bribe and that gambling firms are hoping to avoid tougher regulations.
Peter Jackson, chief executive of Flutter Entertainment (the holding company name for Paddy Power Betfair) said the agreement marked “an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration by the leading companies in the British betting and gaming sector to address gambling-related harm”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We think that is an important step to make.
“We do think we need to increase the amount of money that is available to protect the young and vulnerable.”
Protecting people at risk
Marc Etches, chief executive of charity GambleAware, told the BBC: “We welcome this initiative by the leading operators as it’s essential there is sufficient funding to provide for treatment and support for both problem gamblers and for those who are ‘at risk’ – particularly the young and vulnerable.
“It is vital that we work closely with the commission, government and other organisations to ensure that operators continue to focus on making gambling products safer, and that treatment and support is properly funded alongside other initiatives including the Safer Gambling campaign, Bet Regret.”
The five firms have also agreed to present safer gambling messages in their adverts, vowing to review the “tone and content” of marketing and sponsorship material.
In the UK there are 430,000 people with a serious gambling addiction, according to estimates by The Gambling Commission. When those deemed to be at risk are included in the number, it rises to over 2 million.
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright has said the gambling industry has a responsibility to tackle problem gambling and that they should contribute to the cost of treatment.
“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.”
The news comes weeks after the Labour party has called for tougher regulation in the casino industry.