NHS clinicians call for levy on gambling industry to help fund addiction services

Sunday March 13, 2022 1:09 p.m.

Top NHS clinicians are calling for a new gambling industry tax that would help fund drug prevention and treatment programmes.

Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic and the clinical lead of the NHS Northern Gambling Service, Dr Matt Gaskell, have launched the calls for a new independent health board, to oversee the spending of the tax on games of chance.

The move could see ‘tens of millions’ of pounds funneled into gambling addiction services, clinicians wrote today in a paper for the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank.

Sky Vegas was hit with a £1.2million fine by Britain’s gambling watchdog last week after sending out free casino ‘spins’ to recovering drug addicts, the gambling giant 888 casino having been fined £9.4million earlier this month for failing to protect customers against fabrication. huge losses during the pandemic betting boom.

The UK government is currently preparing to release a gambling white paper, which plans to clean up the sector, including a crackdown on advertising and marketing.

“The current voluntary system has no integration of NHS services, no consistency in funding decisions, no independent long-term impact assessment or regulation through the Care Quality Commission, no coordinated oversight of research councils on harms research, and serious questions have been raised about the independence of this voluntary system from gaming industry influence,” the SMF clinicians wrote.

“Furthermore, decisions about health service funding are not overseen by experts from the Department of Health and Social Care, as one might expect, but rather by officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports.”

The legal power to impose such a tax on industry has existed since 2005, however, it has never been used as governments have trusted industry to voluntarily support risk reduction work.