Several NHS clinicians have called for a new mandatory levy on the UK’s gambling industry to help fund prevention and treatment programmes for gambling addiction.
Dr Matt Gaskell, the Clinical Lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service, and Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, have spearheaded the calls to establish an independent health board to oversee the gambling levy.
The plans, published in a paper for the think tank Social Market Foundation (SMF), suggest that the proposed board should be led by the Department of Health and Social Care rather than the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The paper proposes that the Joint Advisory Levy Board should carry out an assessment on the relationship between certain products and gambling harm, and levy them accordingly.
It also suggests the board should consult with academics, research councils, the Gambling Commission, clinicians, and stakeholders from the Department for Education and the DCMS.
Right now, gambling operators in the UK must make unspecified annual contributions to organisations approved by the Commission and contributions to the research, prevention, and treatment of gambling addiction.
The paper’s authors suggest the new levy should replace the current voluntary funding system, which they deem “not fit for purpose”.
Criticising the current voluntary funding system, the paper, as obtained by City AM, reads: “The current voluntary system has no integration of NHS services, no consistency in funding decisions, no independent evaluation of long-term impact or regulation via the Care Quality Commission, no coordinated oversight from research councils over research into harm, and serious questions have been asked about the independence of this voluntary system from the influence of the gambling industry.
“Furthermore, decisions about the funding of healthcare services are not overseen by experts at the Department of Health and Social Care, as would be expected, but rather officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”
The news comes after Sky Betting and Gaming was fined £1.17 million for self-exclusion breaches and after operator 888 was fined £9.4 million for AML and social responsibility failings.
It also comes after the NHS announced its decision to stop accepting funds from GambleAware, and as the UK government is expected to produce a white paper on its review of the Gambling Act 2005.