Tom Watson, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) wrote in a recent article that problem gambling in the UK could cost the society as much as 1.2 billion pounds. He wrote that the department of DCMS has some very important responsibilities, including holding tech companies more responsible for their platforms and ensuring that gambling industry follows suitable regulations.
Focusing extensively on the gambling industry, Watson wrote that regulation is their top priority. An estimated 430,000 people are identified as problem gamblers in the UK. Another two million are at the brink of developing these issues. Therefore, the authorities must be ready to tackle the huge issue with better regulations.
Presently, the NHS lacks specialist treatment for problem gambling. It is funded via a voluntary levy on the gambling industry that brings in about 10 million pounds every year. It is a puny amount, compared to the IPPR estimate of the cost of problem gambling in the society i.e. 1.2 billion pounds. He noted that problem gambling has been ignored by some parts of the industry for too long. There must be a compulsory levy on the industry that helps in providing adequate funding for the people.
He also blamed the government for failing to address real issues faced by people and bowing to the oligopolistic power of the big tech. The people, according to Watson, have started becoming wary of the anti-market practices of the giant tech platforms. His allegations were directed towards Google, whose YouTube platform earns 160 billion pounds from artists and creators as the leading streaming site for music video but doesn’t give back as much.
Advertising on Facebook also caught Watson’s attention, especially in concern with the EU referendum. The existing regulations in the country are not designed for taking firm action, which provides a legal faux pass to tech companies. He proposed the creation of a new, single tech regulator vested with enough power and proper authority to address power imbalances in the industry. If these huge gaps continue, the tech industry could reach a dangerous tipping point.
Watson further emphasized that addressing these important issues is important for the UK as it is going through times of change. When the UK leaves the European Union, it should focus on building inclusion and creativity, according to Watson who claims that Labour is determined to do exactly that.