This paper - authored by Dr James Noyes (Senior SMF Fellow), Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE (Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic) and Dr Matthew Gaskell (Clinical Lead of the NHS Northern Gambling Service) - makes the case for introducing a statutory levy on the gambling industry, to be overseen by a new independent board led by the Department of Health and Social Care. The paper surveys the current voluntary system of industry funding for harm reduction. It finds that the voluntary system is structurally flawed and has failed in its approach.
- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has resisted repeated calls from a wide range of expert stakeholders to introduce a statutory levy
- The current voluntary funding system lacks consistency, transparency, and accountability
- £100m has been pledged by the gambling industry to a single charity, GambleAware, but funding is not being properly integrated with the NHS or research councils
- There is no long-term strategy of prevention and recovery within the current framework
- There is no clear target for harm reduction (in terms of quantity, timescale or cost)
The paper sets out the alternative regime that policymakers should put in place in order to provide better support for harm reduction.
- The Secretary of State should introduce regulations which would require operators to pay an annual levy to the Gambling Commission, as provided for in the 2005 Gambling Act.
- The creation of a Joint Advisory Levy Board to be given oversight over the levy paid to the Gambling Commission. This would be a formal cross-government working group led by the Department of Health and Social Care.
- The new Levy Board should oversee a comprehensive assessment of the evidence base of gambling-related harm and the limitations of the current voluntary system.
- To help achieve this, the industry should reallocate the £60 million pledged to GambleAware for 2023 to the Gambling Commission, under the oversight of the Levy Board.
- Having carried out its assessment of gambling-related harm, the Levy Board should calculate the costs of this harm and establish which parts of the industry contribute to that harm more than others. This calculation, which should be carried out in 2023, would enable a ‘smart’ levy to be introduced based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle from 2024.
- The Joint Advisory Levy Board should establish a clear target for harm reduction by a fixed date, against which the efficacy of the statutory levy can be evaluated. This target should be a reduction in gambling-related harm by 50% within 5 years.