Hugo backs more action to prevent problem gambling

Today, East Devon's MP Sir Hugo Swire welcomed the government's announcement that the UK's biggest gambling firms – William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair, Skybet and Bet365 – have taken the decision to increase their voluntary levy on gambling profits from 0.1 per cent to 1 per cent up to 2023.

This will create a contribution of £60 million which will help to fund treatment for problem gamblers. The firms have said that cumulatively they will spend £100 million on treatment over the next four years. The decision has been welcomed by the charity GambleAware.

However, Hugo warned that in the future further levies on gambling profits may be required to tackle the full range of social costs attributable from problem gambling. 

Hugo said: "Some years ago, as shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I was sitting where the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson) is now. I witnessed the then Labour Government and their mammoth explosion of gambling, both online and elsewhere.

“Despite repeated warnings, successive Governments have failed to tackle what is a pernicious problem, particularly among less well-off people. Historically, people with gambling and other addictions who have health insurance or money can get treated, so I very much welcome the fact that some of these companies are now going to fund treatment for the less well-off. But will the Secretary of State say a little more about how he envisages these clinics? Will they be sustained on a long-term basis? What is the geographical spread? Will the money be hypothecated? Critically, will the NHS match the money from the five companies to date?

“I welcome the move today, but I have to say that I am not convinced that we will not need some kind of mandatory levy in the longer term”.

In response, Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. He is right to be sceptical: we are all sceptical and remain sceptical in government about this. However, it would be wrong not to recognise the significant step forward that this announcement represents.

“In answer to my right hon. Friend’s point about hypothecation, I should say that it has been made clear that £100 million of the money announced today will be reserved for treatment over the four-year period. We will want to make sure that the requirements for treatment are met via this contribution and those that we expect the rest of the industry to make.

“As I mentioned in the statement and as my right hon. Friend knows, commitments have already been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to spend money on gambling, which is a recognised and real health problem. The money I have announced today is to supplement that. We must make sure that there is not duplication but rather that these contributions reinforce the money that is already committed”.