Gambling and public health – policy action to prevent harm

Debate is growing fast about whether the UK gambling industry’s annual financial contribution to fund:

  • research into the prevention and treatment of gambling-related harm,
  • development of harm prevention approaches and
  • identification and treatment of those harmed by gambling

should result in (a) a tenfold increase from GambleAware’s current suggested 0.1% to to 1% of licence-holders’ GGY and/or (b) replacement of the present system of voluntary donations by a mandatory levy.

This has been brought into even sharper focus by the following developments in the last few weeks:

Now, an article in the British Medical Journal, authored by Heather Wardle and colleagues entitled “Gambling and public health – we need policy action to prevent harm” (that can be downloaded below) widens that debate, calling (as it does) for:

  1. the treatment of gambling as a public health concern through the development and implementation of a fully realised and sustainably funded government-owned strategy for preventing harms among the population and
  2. a critical re-assessment of both (a) the policy and funding environment in which a coherent such strategy can be developed and (b) the industry’s role in shaping existing practices.

The key messages within the article are summarised as follows:

  • Current approaches targeting affected individuals substantially underestimate the harms of gambling
  • Gambling places a major burden of harm on individuals, communities, and society
  • Harms from gambling are generated through a range of political, legislative, commercial and interpersonal actions
  • Public health approaches to reduce harms related to gambling should encompass a range of population based approaches supported by regulation, legislation and funding

It can certainly be inferred from the following extract from the article that the authors favour a fundamental change to the present system of funding:

Funding for prevention and treatment of gambling related harms in Britain is woefully under-resourced, which needs urgent attention. The statutory power to impose a compulsory levy on industry exists, but successive governments have been unwilling to enact the levy. This is despite the industry regulator, their advisers, and even some industry actors themselves supporting a levy. This highlights why the broader system in which gambling policies are created and legislated must be considered.

Further comment on this article is contained in a news item published by SBC News today entitled “BMJ article calls for new tax to fund responsible gambling initiatives”.

The important matters raised in the BMJ article seem sure to be discussed by speakers and delegates at the forthcoming KnowNow Player Protection Forum (taking place in London on 22 May 2019) that David Clifton will be chairing. Please let David know if you intend to be there or have particular questions that you would like him to raise with the various expert speakers at the event.