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Statutory Levy on Gambling Operators: Publication of Public Consultation

Volume 738: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2023

I wish to inform the House that His Majesty’s Government have today published the public consultation entitled “Consultation on the structure, distribution and governance of the statutory levy”.

Following the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, the gambling White Paper published in April 2023 outlined a comprehensive package of measures to introduce robust new protections against gambling-related harm. One of the key proposals in the White Paper was the introduction of a statutory levy, replacing the system of voluntary contributions.

We have welcomed the contributions that industry has made to research, prevention and treatment since the introduction of the Gambling Act. However, we recognise that funding is not the only requirement for effective research, prevention and treatment arrangements and this alone will not achieve our objective for a system which is equitable, ensures a high degree of long-term funding certainty and guarantees independence. Issues surrounding the independence of the funding has resulted in the NHS ending all arrangements with organisations in receipt of direct funds from operators, creating a barrier to robust integration between NHS and third sector services. Some researchers have also refused this funding given its source and for fear of being compromised or lobbied by the gambling industry.

We committed to addressing these issues by introducing a statutory levy via secondary legislation to ensure independent, long-term and trusted funding for research, prevention and treatment, with appropriate Government oversight. This is in line with the Government’s objective of protecting people from gambling-related harm and ensuring that sufficient funding is being effectively directed where it is needed most. The levy will be paid by gambling operators and collected and administered by the Gambling Commission, with spending decisions approved by DCMS and HM Treasury, putting the independence of funding beyond absolute doubt and guaranteeing sufficient funding where it is needed most.

Today, we have launched a public consultation setting out the Government’s proposals in these areas as follows:

Structure: we propose that online operators pay the levy at a higher rate than land-based operators. In line with the White Paper, our proposals have taken into account evidence of the differing association of different sectors with harm and/or their differing fixed costs to ensure that rates are fairly and proportionately set, while raising sufficient funding for key projects and services. We expect that the levy will raise c.£90 million to £100 million per year when fully in force.

Distribution: we propose that c.10-20% of levy funding should be directed each year to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the umbrella body for UK research councils, as part of a new, multidisciplinary gambling research programme; 15-30% should be used to fund a programme of prevention and education to raise awareness of gambling harms across Great Britain; and 40-60% should be directed to the NHS to improve and expand treatment commissioning for gambling addiction across the full treatment pathway.

Governance: we propose that a statutory levy board and separate advisory group are established to ensure appropriate Government oversight of the levy system, as well as creating a forum for sector experts across public health, academia and charities to inform funding priorities.

We recognise that the statutory levy represents a generational change to funding arrangements for research, prevention and treatment and that there are complexities around the transition to this new system. We want to provide clarity for the sector as quickly and as transparently as possible while providing adequate detail and time for respondents to give considered views.

The purpose of this consultation is to ensure that the Government are able to consider the best available evidence when finalising policy decisions. The views and evidence of respondents will inform the Government’s approach to implementing this landmark reform to the funding arrangements for research, prevention and treatment in an effective, evidence-led and proportionate way.

The consultation will be open for eight weeks, closing on 14 December. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the Government will then publish a formal response to set out our decision and reasoning before implementing the changes via secondary legislation.

The Government’s ambition has been, and will continue to be, to ensure that people across our country can access trusted, quality information, support and treatment when it comes to gambling-related harms, and that the Government and the Gambling Commission have access to timely, independent research to inform policy and regulation. The publication of this consultation shows our commitment to this ambition and progress towards developing a sustainable and world-leading system for research, prevention and treatment.

We absolutely want those who enjoy gambling without coming to harm to continue to do so. However, tackling gambling-related harm is a top priority for the Government and raising independent, trusted and sustainable funding for research, prevention and treatment of gambling-related harms is a crucial component of a regulatory framework which aims to prevent harm before it occurs, while ensuring people can access the help they need if and when they need it.

I will deposit a copy of the consultation in the Libraries of both Houses.