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New support for NHS to treat gambling addiction

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  • NHS to become main commissioner of treatment as a result of gambling levy – providing estimated £100 million per year for research, prevention and treatment
  • Government to take action to put funding for treatment, prevention and research on a long term footing from the existing voluntary set up 
  • Consultation launched to gather views from industry, clinicians, practitioners academics, those who have experienced of harmful gambling and the wider public

The NHS is set to benefit as new levy will raise an estimated £100 million of new funding for research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction. 

Following publication of the gambling white paper in April, the Government is now taking the next step in mandating payments from the sector by launching a consultation on the design of the proposed gambling operator levy. 

Currently, not all gambling companies contribute equally towards the existing voluntary levy, with some operators paying as little as £1 towards research, prevention and treatment. The Government is therefore acting to ensure all operators contribute their fair share. 

In order to improve research, prevention and treatment of gambling harm, the Government is minded to set the levy as a new 1% fee on gross gambling yield for online gambling operators, while traditional betting shops and casinos will pay a proposed fee of around 0.4%. 

The white paper has proposed a fair and proportionate approach to levy rates between various operators, taking into account the difference, for example, in operating costs and the levels of harmful gambling associated with different gambling activities. 

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: 

We are taking the next step in our plan to protect those most at risk of gambling harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and research.

All gambling operators will be required to pay their fair share and this consultation is an opportunity for the industry, clinicians, those who have experienced gambling harm and the wider public to have their say on how the proposed gambling operator levy should work. 

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.

Technology has reshaped where, when and how people gamble and there has been a significant rise in online gambling behaviour due to the ease of access on smartphones, with people able to gamble anytime and anywhere. 

Figures from the NHS Digital Health Survey also indicate that some of these online products are associated with elevated levels of gambling-related addiction and harm with ‘problem gambling’ rates eight times higher for online slots and casino game players than in the population as a whole.

Under the proposed levy, the gambling industry will no longer have a say over how money for research, prevention and treatment is spent. Instead, the Gambling Commission will distribute funding directly to the NHS and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which coordinates research and innovation funding, under the strategic direction of government. The levy will be underpinned by legislation meaning firms will be required to pay.

The funding delivered through the levy, which will deliver substantial new investment for the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales, will increase access to treatment and support for those experiencing gambling-related harm. It will also help to develop a truly national approach to prevention and fund independent, high-quality research to inform policy and practice.

In July this year, the NHS announced that seven new specialist gambling addiction clinics will open in Milton Keynes, Thurrock, Derby, Bristol, Liverpool, Blackpool and Sheffield this year. This is in addition to the seven clinics already in operation in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford, as well as an additional national clinic, which treats both gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people, in London.

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew said:

We know that gambling addiction can devastate lives, which is why we are working quickly to implement our bold plans for reform. 

This consultation brings us a step closer to being able to provide £100 million of new funding for research, prevention and treatment, including ring fenced investment for the NHS to help gambling addicts.

Gambling firms should always pay their fair share and this new statutory levy will ensure that they are legally required to do just that.

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.

We continue working to support those affected by gambling harms. Twelve of the planned fifteen NHS gambling addictions clinics have now opened across the country providing vital support services for thousands of people experiencing gambling-related harms as well as their loved ones. The remaining three are expected to open by the end of the year.” 

Henrietta Bowden-Jones, National Clinical Advisor for Gambling Harms, said: 

I welcome this Levy which reflects the government’s decision to fund gambling treatment, prevention, research and education in an independent and evidence- based way allowing us to continue our work of eradicating all gambling harms from society.” 

NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch said: 

Gambling addiction destroys people’s lives and with record numbers turning to the NHS for support, the health service has met this demand head on by opening four new specialist clinics in recent months, with a further three opening later this year.

The NHS has long called for a statutory levy because it is only right that this billion-pound industry steps up to support people suffering from gambling addiction and I am pleased that action is being taken to prevent people from coming to harm in the first place. It is now vital we continue working in partnership to ensure we provide effective prevention, education and treatment for this condition.

The Government’s gambling white paper, published in April 2023, set out a range of measures to improve player protections and reduce the risk of gambling addiction and harm in the smartphone era. Measures such as financial risk checks to better alert operators to risky behaviours, stake limits for online slots, tighter controls on marketing of bonuses and a new mandatory gambling operator levy are designed to reduce risk and improve player protections. 

The Government and Gambling Commission continue to implement the measures set out in the white paper with a view to having key elements in place in summer 2024. 

Notes to Editors

  • Read the gambling white paper
  • The consultation will be open for responses for 8 weeks.
  • The statutory levy on gambling operators will provide independent and sustainable funding to improve and expand services across the full treatment pathway:
    • From the National Gambling Helpline, counselling services for gambling-related harm delivered by the third sector, through to specialist services for gambling addiction in the NHS and residential treatment for those experiencing severe gambling disorder.
    • The levy will also provide fresh funding across all three nations of Great Britain to build a support, prevention and treatment system which meets the needs of the public, including outside of treatment such as advice for gambling-related debt and support for affected others of gambling harm.
    • This is an opportunity to integrate services across the full support and pathway for gambling-related harm making sure that people across the country can access the right help they need where and when they need it.
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