The UK government is considering new plans to make bookies responsible for gambling addiction and pay for treatment. Ministers are now being urged to impose a compulsory new tax on operators that could help in reducing the impact of a “serious and pervasive” gambling addiction problem.
The bookies are currently paying a voluntary levy to fund research, treatment, and education through a charity GambleAware. But the gaming advisors of the government are seeking tougher rules so the industry could splash into is 14.4 billion-pound takings and hand over more cash for gambling-related problems.
The cash generated via the new regime will be used to finance a host of new measures that will include providing the NHS a bigger role in providing treatment for gambling addiction. It will be used to crack down on gambling ads. The move was backed by former sports minister Tracey Crouch last night, who quit his position over delays in imposing gambling restrictions recently.
Crouch’s resignation forced the government to look into the problem. He said that the bookies had been warned consistently to contribute a voluntary sum to help pay for education, research, and treatment or it will be made mandatory. He noted that the industry’s time is running out fast. Both GambleAware and Labour are backing the compulsory levy on bookies.
The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board told the Gambling Commission last week that a compulsory levy should replace the voluntary arrangements. It advised the regulator that there must be a stronger and more transparent structure for distribution of funds raised via the bookie-levy. It also asked for research on a greater scale.
The problem is getting more severe for the UK. Currently, about 340,000 adults are identified as problem gamblers along 55,000 underage players aged between 11 and 16. Another 550,000 people suffer from moderate gambling harm. The board noted in its report that it is difficult not to conclude that gambling is causing serious harm. It said that the figures related to gambling amongst kids are particularly disturbing and the approach to the issue should change if progress is needed.
Last week, the government announced a ban on the sale of lottery scratch cards to children aged 16 and 17. The government was concerned that these youngsters could get involved with the National Lottery scratch cards as they are banned from betting shops and casinos. Smartphone gambling apps could become even more addictive than the betting machines used in casinos by bookies. A new report by psychologists revealed that one person placed 180 losing bets continuously before he stopped.