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Gambling levy could raise £100m for NHS treatment – BBC News

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  • By Philippa Roxby
  • Health reporter

Image source, Getty Images

A levy on gambling companies that would bring in £100m a year to fund NHS treatment is being considered by the UK government.

It wants all operators “to pay their fair share”, instead of the current voluntary scheme.

The money will be invested in treatment and support for people harmed by gambling in England, Scotland and Wales, ministers say.

The body that represents the industry said it supported the new levy.

But the Betting and Gaming Council also said funds from the levy must be given only to “genuine” charities and organisations tackling problem gambling and related harms.

Under the government plan:

  • online operators would pay 1% of what they make
  • betting shops and casinos would pay about 0.4% of what they make

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “The introduction of this levy will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities, while allowing millions of people to continue to gamble safely.”

A consultation on the plans will gather views from industry, doctors, academics as well as those with experience of harmful gambling, and the general public. It will last for eight weeks.

There has been a sharp rise in people gambling online on their smartphones in recent years.

This means they can gamble any time of day and anywhere, increasing the likelihood of addiction, experts say.

In the summer, NHS England announced specialist gambling addiction clinics would open this year in:

  • Milton Keynes
  • Thurrock, Essex
  • Derby
  • Bristol
  • Liverpool
  • Blackpool
  • Sheffield
  • London
  • Leeds
  • Newcastle
  • Manchester
  • Southampton
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Telford

There is also a national clinic treating gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people, in London.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Harmful gambling can affect people’s savings, ruin relationships, and devastate people’s lives and health.

“Gambling companies should pay their fair share towards the costs of treatment services but we want to hear from as many people as possible about how the new statutory levy should work.”

NHS mental-health director Claire Murdoch said it was only right “that this billion-pound industry steps up to support people suffering from gambling addiction”.

‘Sliding scale’

The Betting and Gaming Council said its members had already pledged £100m over four years to fund research, education and treatment services, through the voluntary levy scheme.

The new levy should apply to all operators, including the National Lottery, on a sliding scale, to protect High Street betting shops that struggled during the pandemic, it added.

The draft health guidance is currently open for consultation.

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