NHS Calls for Statutory “Addiction Levy” on Gambling Industry in UK

NHS Calls for Statutory “Addiction Levy” on Gambling Industry in UK

The National Health Service (NHS) recently announced that it would be cutting any ties with the gambling industry, objecting to the fact that the industry pays for the very issue it arguably helps cause in the first place. Now, though, a top treatment NHS clinical facility that deals with gambling addiction is determined to elicit more action from the industry through a mandatory “addiction levy.”

New Levy Offers Solution into Problem Gambling

The money paid under this compulsory levy would go to tackling gambling addiction. To address the issue and remain different from the previous model, Henrietta Bowden-Jones, who heads the National Problem Gambling Clinic, and the NHS Northern Gambling Service clinical head Dr Matt Gaskell insists that a new independent health board should be created.

This board would be fully tasked with dealing with problem gambling. According to them, the “polluter should pay” to undo the wrong they have caused. The new board would then oversee all the money collected through the new levy and seek to ensure that all gambling-related harm has been slashed by at least 50% by 2024.

But why change now? Bowden-Jones and Gaskell are both aware of the voluntary donations that the industry has been forwarding and that the NHS, in the end, decided to forego. According to the two gambling addiction experts, those voluntary donations were not sufficient to truly address the issue on the scale it deserves. To better explain the issue with the voluntary systems, the duo offered insight for the Social Market Foundation, a think tank:

“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.”

Gambling experts Henrietta Bowden-Jones and Matt Gaskell

The Existing Model Is Simply Not Working

Another issue with the existing model is that any voluntary contributions are not overseen by health experts, but rather by people in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which may defeat the purpose of addressing the issue in the first place.

The present voluntary donations arrangement is conducted through GambleAware, an NGO that focuses on gambling harm prevention in the United Kingdom. However, the NHS said that it would no longer accept the donations through the voluntary levies and would seek to fund its own gambling addiction treatment come April 1.

The voluntary donations channeled through GambleAware make up for £100 million ($130 million) annually. GambleAware acknowledged this change in public perception and said that it might seek to reduce some of the voluntary donations as well.

Calls for ending this arrangement between GambleAware and the gambling industry have been growing, though. Many gambling experts have objected to the DCMS taking charge of this issue as well. A new body is needed, Bowden-Jones and Gaskell argue.