London, England - A call to impose a mandatory levy on gambling operators to fund problem gambling research and treatment services has caused a significant drop in the share prices of the UK’s top gambling companies.
A leading medical publication, The British Journal, along with charities like GambleAware and Citizens Advice have called on the UK government to make some changes to existing gambling laws. Gambling operators currently have the freedom to contribute any amount they see fit towards addressing issues such as gambling addiction and problem gambling. Proponents of the mandatory levy, however, argue that none of the gambling operators in the country have kept their promise of donating part of their profits towards this cause.
Section 123 of the Gambling Act
In Section 123 of the Gambling Act, the Secretary of State is vested with the power to require gambling operators to pay a mandatory levy to the Gambling Commission. The Commission is then mandated to spend the funds raised under such levy to address “addiction to gambling, other forms of harm or exploitation associated with gambling, and any of the licensing objectives”.
It is this provision in the Gambling Act that Citizens Advice is urging the government to implement. The provision may have been included there for use as a last resort, but the fact remains that it provides a clear-cut mechanism for resources to be collected and directed towards combating the detrimental effects of gambling addiction.
A Drop in Stocks
Soon after these calls for a mandatory levy were made, several UK gambling companies saw a significant drop in their share prices. Among those affected were GVC Holdings, Paddy Power Betfair, and William Hill. This drop in stocks is most likely the direct result of a realization that a mandatory levy will be sure to impact these companies’ profit levels.
In reports covering the most recent full year of operations, UK gambling companies earned revenues upwards of £14.4 billion. However, some of these companies only donated as little as £1 million towards addressing issues of problem gambling. This is why funding for gambling addiction treatment is in short supply, and why calls for mandatory levy are being made.
Problem gambling is a very real issue in the UK, and one of the most seriously worrying trends is that more and more people are getting into gambling at a very young age. In fact, a survey published in November 2018 states that 14% of children aged 11 to 16 was involved in some form of gambling within the past week. And according to Dr. Heather Wardle:
“Gambling harms have been vastly underestimated. It is placing major burdens on resources, relationships, and health. The time is now for action to reduce harms, which is going to require a much more significant level of funding than is currently available.”
The Gambling Commission has welcomed the calls for mandatory levy as well as the reports submitted to support these calls. However, whether the government heeds the calls and uses Section 123 to obligate gambling companies to pay up, remains to be seen.