In a letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), some leading bookmakers pledged to additional funds to tackle problem gambling.
Raising the levy
Currently, the government encourages betting firms to donate a voluntary levy of 0.1% of their profits to gambling charities such as GambleAware. However, in their pledge, leading gambling firms have offered to increase this to 1%.
The bookmakers behind this offer are William Hill, Betfair Paddy Power, Sky Bet, Bet 365, and Coral Ladbroke. In the letter they pledged to increase the levy over the course of five years, which people estimate will raise around £100 million to help with gambling problems.
This pledge comes amidst criticism of the gambling industry and the voluntary levy.
Last year the levy raised only £10 million, with many firms donating as little as £1 or £5. Because of this information, the levy came into the spotlight, with MPs and gambling support organisations criticising the scheme (and bookmakers) for failing to meet the target amount.
The Gambling Commission and GambleAware, among other charities, are consistently vocal about the need for more funds to tackle problem gambling. With an estimated 430,000 people with a serious gambling addiction in the UK (according to the Gambling Commission), there is pressure on gambling firms to do more.
With latest figures showing a rise in online gambling, the issue of responsible gaming continues to have great importance.
In their pledge, the betting companies promised to do more to support its customers. They said they would review their advertising methods and increase the amount of safer gambling messages, in an attempt to put the needs of the customer first. The firms particularly mentioned their aim to protect the young and vulnerable and address issues surrounding gambling.
“Step up on social responsibility”
Secretary of State at the DCMS, Jeremy Wright, says:
“I want the gambling industry to step up on social responsibility and keep their players safe, including through making more funding available for research, education and treatment to tackle problem gambling.
“Protecting people and their families from the risks of gambling-related harm is a priority for this government and I am encouraged that the sector now recognises that they need to do more.”
A need to do more
Many welcome this promise of responsible action by gambling firms, but still some say it is not enough.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has called for a mandatory levy to be imposed on gambling firms. This is also something the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board and other organisations support. A few days before the five firms made their pledge Watson had this to say:
“These companies are making billions and yet are refusing to contribute even 0.1% to support research, education and treatment of gambling harms. The pittance contributed by some firms, and the complete absence of others from this list, is frankly an insult to the voluntary system. We urgently need reform.”
A pledge for good?
With this controversy surrounding gambling firms’ contributions to tackling problem gambling, this pledge of additional funds is very timely.
Because of the criticism that bookmakers only do the minimum to publicly support charities, without any meaningful actions, the firms’ offer to donate more of their profits to charity will hopefully start making some difference.
Ensuring the customer is safe and that they have the necessary support if they struggle with addiction is going to be key for gambling firms moving forward. With pressure from charities, support organisations, and MPs, it only seems a matter of time before the government introduces new measures for safer gambling.