minister defies call from UK regulator to raise funding for addiction
The government has come under
fire for its outrageous failure to back a mandatory levy on betting
firms to increase funding for addiction treatment, in defiance of a call from
the industrys regulator.
Labours deputy leader, Tom Watson,
accused the government of dragging its heels, after the sports
minister, Mims Davies, said in a speech that the existing voluntary levy
does work, moments after the chair of the Gambling Commission said
The row came as Ladbrokes owner, GVC, the UKs
largest gambling company, broke ranks with the industry by announcing proposals
to protect problem gamblers, including an end to TV ads and football shirt
GVCs chief executive, Kenny Alexander, called on
rivals to follow suit as he announced a number of measures he said would
do more to protect the vulnerable.
Among the most
eye-catching proposals is a total ban on gambling ads attached to sports
broadcasts, except for horse racing. The suggestion goes further than existing
industry plans for a pre-watershed whistle-to-whistle ban.
GVC also said it would voluntarily end all sponsorship deals that
promoted its brands on football shirts or on pitchside advertising hoardings,
matching a policy proposed by Labour in 2017.
The company sponsors the
shirts of two clubs, Sunderland and Charlton, both in the third tier of English
football. It also sponsors the Scottish Premiership and will retain that deal,
although it will donate pitchside hoarding space included in the agreement to
responsible gambling messages.
It said curbing ads would allow
fans to watch their favourite teams without seeing any incentives to bet
and called on football governing bodies and the gambling industry to do the
Alexander said: While the vast majority of our customers
enjoy our products responsibly, it is high time that the industry did more to
protect its customers from potential harm. As the UKs largest gambling
company, and owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, we at GVC are doing exactly
GVC, which is based in the Isle of Man, also pledged to
channel 1% of its gambling revenue into research, education and treatment
projects by 2022, 10 times the voluntary levy of 0.1%.
While GVC has
volunteered to increase its contribution, the industry has been accused of not
paying its fair share, including by the charity GambleAware, which collects the
proceeds of the voluntary levy and backs a new mandatory one.
Gambling Commission chairman, Bill Moyes, said on Thursday that hard
cash via a mandatory system was required to increase funding for
research, education and treatment from about £12m to at least £70m
But the sports minister said the current system worked and
continues to have support from government and industry, although
she said tougher options would remain on the table.
Its outrageous that this Tory government is ignoring its own
statutory advisers call for a mandatory levy on gambling companies to
fund support for problem gamblers.
Both the regulator and the
industry agree that the current levy system needs to change to increase the
level of support, but true to form, this government is dragging its
The Scottish National Party MP Ronnie Cowan said he was
disappointed the government was yet to back a statutory levy. And the Bishop of
St Albans said the governments position was extraordinary and
Davies, whose predecessor Tracey Crouch resigned over
delays to curbs on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), said she expected the
industry to make faster progress on tackling harm caused by
She said: Protecting people from harm should be at the
heart of every gambling business. Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that
those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time.
Both Moyes and Davies were speaking at the launch of the
commissions three-year strategy to reduce gambling-related harm, focusing
on prevention, education and treatment and support for problem gamblers.
Moyes said the regulator hoped to deliver a seismic shift
in harm prevention and would not hesitate to take regulatory action against
betting firms that cross the line.
The commission has increased the
level of financial penalties on firms that breach their licensing obligations
in recent years, amid a string of scandals involving problem gambling.