A tax on gambling companies to fund drug addiction treatment, says the director of the NHS
Gambling companies have benefited from the pandemic, but they are leaving the NHS "picking bits" of addiction and should be charged a mandatory fee to finance treatment, England's head of psychiatric health said.
Claire Murdoch - NHS England's national director of mental health - denounced the voluntary system that allows the industry to dictate how much she contributes to helping addicts.
As part of an intervention that is taking place during a government review of regulations governing the £ 11 billion annual sector, Murdoch 750 said people are being referred to specialist clinics for major addiction treatment from April 2020. Healthcare plans to open more gambling clinics across the country as it believes that it currently only reaches "the tip of the iceberg".
Subsequent lockdowns have resulted in a sharp spike in spending - Acetic Online Casino Games and Slots, fueling strong revenue growth for companies such as Paddy Power Flutter owner and Ladbrokes owner Coral Entain. Denise Coates, general manager of the online-only 365 plant, paid herself £ 421m for 2020 last week taking her awards in the past four years above £ 1bn.
But Murdoch, who previously criticized bookmakers and gambling companies for luring players with incentives such as "VIP" hospitality and "free" bets, said the industry's contribution to treatment was still only a "drop in the ocean".
"After seeing the damage the gambling industry has done to the country's young people, it's clear that companies are focusing on profit at the expense of people's health, while the NHS is increasingly being forced to collect pieces," she said.
“In the year the NHS tackled our biggest challenge in Covid - 19, health psychologists and nurses are treating hundreds of people who are severely addicted to gambling.
“The gambling industry has to take more responsibility as the nation has come together over the past year to support the NHS, be it volunteering as vaccinators or showing appreciation to the staff. Bookmakers also need to step up and agree to a mandatory fee to deal with the harm from problem gambling. "
Research has shown that there are between 300,000 and 1.4 million gambling addicts in the UK, but a report published last year found that only 3%s received specialist help, often using industry-funded helplines instead.
MEPs on both sides of the house, addiction pundits and industry regulators, the Gambling Commission, have all previously called for a mandatory fee to help close the loophole that the government has so far opposed.
Labor, Carolyn Harris, who chaired the MEPs investigating the harmful effects of gambling said: “The treatment and support services available to gambling addicts in this country are significantly underfunded. The industry should not decide when or how much to pay for the damage they cause. "
The charity GambleAware, which receives and spends most of the industry's voluntary contributions, also backed calls for a mandatory fee.
The voluntary scheme has been criticized for insufficient fundraising - from 10m and £ 15 a year - with some operators giving nominal amounts such as £ 1 to ensure placement on the public donor list.
In 2019, a group of major gambling companies sought to stave off the pressure of having to pay the mandatory fee by offering to spend an additional £ 100m for £ 977,700, a plan that has earned the government's blessing.
However, sources at gambling charities say the money flowed in slowly, while the industry was also criticized for trying to control the organization take it back.
Much of the funding goes through non-NHS services like the charity GamCare, but the government has recently tried to improve NHS resources through two new specialist gambling clinics, with 14 more to follow.
Conservative MP Richard Holden said introducing a mandatory fee to improve treatment options "makes sense".
"Too often, gambling addiction is another burden on our NHS and other services after it has been harmed," he said.
“I really hope the gambling review highlights this as part of the full package of measures we need. "
Although the government has previously avoided imposing a mandatory fee, it is one of the measures being considered in the review which is currently overseen by the Department of Digital Affairs, Cultural Media and Sports (DCMS).
A DCMS spokesman said: "Our plans to update the gambling regulations are based on our recent tough es, including banning credit cards, stricter age verification checks, and lowering the maximum stake at fixed-odds betting terminals.
“It has always been clear that a voluntary support scheme should problem gambling projects and services not provide the necessary funding, all funding options, including fee, will be considered. "
The Betting and Gaming Council said: "For over 20 years, our industry has been the sole sponsor of research, education and treatment, and we welcome the recent decision taken by the NHS to work with the fund management charity, GambleAware, to create clinics to help treat problem gamblers." . "
The industry has not been the sole sponsor of research, education, and treatment for 20 years. Other sponsors include independent charities and academic grants.
BGC added: "In addition to these donations to GambleAware, our members also make substantial funding to a wide range of charities and organizations to directly support research, education and treatment - this includes £ 10 million for the Youth Gambling Harm Prevention Program, which is targeting all 11- to 19-year-olds nationwide, provided by [gambling and gaming charity] YGAM and GamCare. "