UK Gambling Firms to Contribute Annually to NHS for Addiction Support

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In a significant move, the UK government has announced that gambling companies will be required to pay approximately £100 million each year to the National Health Service (NHS) to support addiction research, prevention, and treatment. This change marks a shift away from the previous voluntary contribution system.

Under the new mandatory levy, live online casinos and bookmakers will be obliged to pay 1% of their winnings from punters.

UK's Mandatory Gambling Levy for Addiction Support

Traditional betting shops and land-based casinos, which have higher fixed costs like rent, will pay the levy at a rate of 0.4% of their revenue. Based on the industry's estimated income of around £10 billion in 2022, this levy is expected to raise £100 million, which will be channeled directly into NHS services.

This initiative is part of a broader plan to reform gambling laws in Great Britain, as outlined earlier this year. The funds collected from this levy will be allocated to support specialized addiction clinics nationwide. The NHS plans to open seven new addiction treatment centers by the end of the year, increasing the total number from one in 2019 to 15.

The exact details of the levy's structure will undergo an eight-week consultation period. However, it is clear that this mandatory contribution will replace the previous voluntary system that has been in place since the liberalization of gambling laws during Tony Blair's Labour government in 2007.

Under the old arrangement, the gambling industry typically donated about 0.1% of its revenues, often totaling less than £10 million in some years. Critics accused some operators of contributing nominal amounts or nothing at all. In 2019, the industry failed to meet a £10 million target for voluntary donations to GambleAware, the primary conduit for industry contributions until now.

In response to mounting pressure from campaigners, clinicians, and the gambling regulator, major operators agreed in 2019 to increase their contributions, resulting in £110 million raised, according to the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), an industry lobby group. However, concerns have persisted that the voluntary system allows the industry too much influence over how the funds are distributed, leading the NHS to reject such funding.

Earlier this year, powerful industry members, including bet365, Flutter Entertainment, Entain, and William Hill, had decided to withhold 25% of funds previously destined for GambleAware, choosing to allocate them to projects of their choosing. The government asserts that the new mandatory levy will address concerns about industry influence and enhance funding for individuals grappling with gambling addiction.

A Legal Requirement for Industry Contribution

The UK Gambling Commission will directly allocate levy funds to the NHS and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which coordinates funding. This levy will be backed by legislation, making it compulsory for companies to pay.

Stuart Andrew, the gambling minister, stated, "Gambling firms should always pay their fair share, and this new statutory levy will ensure that they are legally required to do just that."

Will Prochaska, Strategy Director of Gambling With Lives, a charity supporting families affected by gambling-related suicides, hailed the levy as a "significant step forward." He emphasized the importance of prioritizing its implementation to ensure the survival of charities currently refusing funds under the existing industry-funded structures.

The BGC expressed its belief that the levy should have been applied to the national lottery, in addition to its own members, which primarily consist of bookmakers and casino companies.

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