NHS clinicians call for levy on gambling industry to help fund addiction services

Sunday 13 March 2022 1:09 pm

Top NHS clinicians are calling for a new levy on the gambling industry, which would help fund prevention and treatment programs for addiction.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic and the clinical lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service Dr Matt Gaskell have led the calls for a new independent health board, to oversee the spending of the gambling levy.

The move could see ‘tens of millions’ of pounds pumped into gambling addiction services, the clinicians wrote in a paper for the think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF) today.

Sky Vegas was last week hit with a £1.2m fine by the UK’s gambling watchdog after it sent free casino “spins” to recovering addicts, with giant 888 casino fined £9.4m at the beginning of the month for failing to protect customers against making huge losses during the pandemic betting boom.

The UK government is currently gearing up to publish a white paper on gambling, which looks at cleaning up the sector, including a crackdown on advertising and marketing.

“The current voluntary system has no integration of NHS services, no consistency in funding decisions, no independent evaluation of long-term impact or regulation via the Care Quality Commission, no coordinated oversight from research councils over research into harm, and serious questions have been asked about the independence of this voluntary system from the influence of the gambling industry,” wrote the clinicians in SMF.

“Furthermore, decisions about the funding of healthcare services are not overseen by experts at the Department of Health and Social Care, as would be expected, but rather officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”

The legal power to impose such a levy on the industry has existed since 2005, however, it has never been used as governments have trusted the industry to support harm-reduction work voluntarily.

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