NHS chief calls for gambling tax to pay for addiction treatment

The head of the NHS has called for a mandatory tax for betting companies to help pay for treatment for gambling addicts

At the launch of the first problem gambling clinic for under 25s, Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, said: ‘This is an industry that splashes £1.5bn on marketing and advertising campaigns, much of it now pumped out online and through social media, but it has been spending just a fraction of that helping customers and their families deal with the direct consequences of addiction.

‘The sums just don’t add up and that is why as well as voluntary action it makes sense to hold open the possibility of a mandatory levy if experience shows that is what is needed.

‘A levy to fund evidence-based NHS treatment, research and education can substantially increase the money available, so that taxpayers and the NHS are not left to pick up a huge tab.’

Up to 14 new NHS clinics are being opened – starting with the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds this summer, followed by Manchester and Sunderland. The National Problem Gambling Clinic in London will also offer specialist help for children and young people aged 13 to 25 as part of an expansion which will also ramp up treatment for adults.

Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said: ‘The announcement of additional gambling clinics and a separate centre to support children and young people is welcome news and another positive step forward. When we launched the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms earlier this year we made it clear how essential it is that people who experience gambling harms have easy access to support and treatment – where they need it and when they need it. Today’s announcement from NHS England is welcome step in achieving that ambition.’

Treasury figures show that the gambling sector paid £2.86bn in taxes in 2017-18, up 4.3% over the same period in 2016/17, and a figure which has almost doubled in the last decade from £1.48bn in 2007-8.

The total gross gambling revenue – the amount gambling firms win from punters – was £14.5bn for October 2017 to September 2018, up from £8.36bn a decade ago, according to the Gambling Commission. Online and remote gambling now accounts for nearly 40% of the total UK betting market.

Gambling companies currently have to pay one or more of the General Betting Duty (GBD), Pool Betting Duty (PBD) or Remote Gaming Duty (RGD) taxes if on activities, including betting or gaming, or both, from outside the UK to gamblers in the UK - for example, over the internet; betting from a UK shop and spread betting from the UK.

Revenues on worldwide remote gambling, by companies providing services to UK customers, other than spread betting, must pay one or more of these taxes. Companies that supply remote gambling that is not spread betting to customers who do not usually live in the UK, are not liable to these taxes on those transactions. Since December 2014, the tax premise changed from a ‘place of supply’ to a ‘place of consumption’ as a result of Gambling Tax Reform (GTR).

The Gambling Commission recently tightened up rules for online gambling and in May introduced new identity and age checks to guard against the risk of children gambling, prevent children from playing free-to-play versions of gambling games on licensees’ websites, and increase the likelihood that someone will be identified if they attempt to gamble while self-excluded.

The number of children classed as having a gambling problem is 55,000, according to the Gambling Commission, while 450,000 are gambling regularly, more than those who have taken drugs, drunk alcohol or smoked.

Sara White

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