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Gambling-related Harm

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 23 May 2019

4. What steps his Department is taking to ensure adequate funding for (a) education, (b) research, (c) treatment and (d) support to minimise gambling-related harm. (911066)

I am pleased to say that the NHS is expanding specialist support for gambling addiction in its long-term plan. Public Health England is reviewing evidence, and GambleAware will publish a needs analysis this autumn. Building evidence is key to future funding decisions. We want the industry to be responsible in all ways, which includes funding support for people experiencing harm.

According to the Gambling Commission, the gross gambling yield of Great Britain’s gambling industry is £14.4 billion, yet the amount donated through the levy for gambling-related harm was less than £10 million. A statutory levy of 1% would equate to £140 million. I know that such a levy is being considered, but what alternatives exist to raise a guaranteed amount over a period?

GambleAware was fully funded last year. As the hon. Gentleman said, it almost reached the £10 million target, and another £7 million was brought in through financial penalties. We expect targets to be increased in the future and welcome commitments by operators to substantially increase the amounts they give. However, as I said at the Gambling Commission strategy launch, if the voluntary system cannot meet current or, more importantly, future needs, we will look at alternatives. Everything is on the table, including a mandatory levy.

Some gambling companies sponsor football clubs to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, and in return, they get branding on T-shirts and around grounds, seen by thousands in stadiums and millions on TV, including millions of children. Yet we found out recently that some of those sponsors gave as little as £50 to GambleAware—the charity that funds research and treatment of gambling addiction. Currently, just 3% of gambling addicts get the treatment they need. When the stakes are so high and contributions so low, how can the Minister justify refusing a mandatory levy?

I think every sport, but particularly football, has a responsibility to those enjoying the game in relation to the amount of sponsors they have and they experience the fans have. In particular, on the size of football shirts, children may be a young adult size, and that should be looked at appropriately.

As I say, if this voluntary system does not work, everything is on the table. However, I would say that of those people who come into contact with GambleAware, 70% come through a life-changing experience and get on to a better future, and I would advise anyone experiencing harm to contact it.