Earlier this week, the UK tax department, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), published a report revealing that it received a staggering £529m ($692.5m) revenue from gambling in 2018. The gambling tax take has more than doubled in the last three years from Remote Gaming Duty alone.
A charity has warned that the government needs to plough some of this money back into support for problem gamblers.
Record Levels of Gambling Revenues
HMRC charges all online gambling companies a Remote Gaming Duty. This tax is charged as a percentage of profits, calculated as stakes received minus winnings paid out.
Online gaming profits are on the rise. In 2015, HMRC received £249m ($326m), but there has been a substantial increase of £280m ($366.5m) in the last three years. The amount of tax revenue recorded for 2018 was almost double at £529m ($692.5m).
According to those studying the industry, these figures are likely to rise in the next few years. Effective as of April 2019, HMRC has increased its percentage of gambling revenue by 6%, meaning that companies will now have to pay out 21% of their profits in tax.
HMRC’s report also revealed that the total amount of tax received in 2018 from all betting and gaming duty receipts was a staggering £2.9bn ($3.8bn).
HMRC “Blinded by the Cash”
Eytan Alexander, CEO of UKAT (UK addiction treatment centres), the charity that analyzed the report, issued a warning to the government. There was a risk that as it was taking increasing sums from gaming providers, it could become “blinded by the cash”.
Alexander commented that the increase would do little to help people with a gambling addiction.
He said: “Slamming high tax bills to online gaming sites is not going to fix the problem we already have in this country. High tax bills might force some platforms to shut down, which will marginally reduce the number of sites people can game on.
“Ultimately, what’s happening here is that the government is making millions from online gaming providers, without any desire or intent to reinvest some of that money into helping prevent and treat gaming dependency and addiction.”
Mental Health Disorder
Earlier this month, popular online video game Fortnite was under fire, with Prince Harry calling for it to be banned. He believed the game was designed to get players addicted and can lead to compulsive behavior that is “bad for children and families”.
The prince said: “It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible. It’s so irresponsible.”
Clinical admissions for addiction to games such as Fortnite have risen dramatically in the last few years. The World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 2018, meaning it’s now classified as a mental health disorder.
UKAT’s own admissions for gaming addiction have rocketed in the last three years, from just seven patients in 2015 to 16 in 2017, an annual rise of 37%, and to 22 in 2018 – a total increase of 214% in three years.
UKAT Demands Help for Addicts
Alexander is calling on the government to spend some of its increased revenues on additional help. Currently, there is one national NHS treatment facility dedicated to treating gamblers based in London. A second centre is opening imminently in Leeds. But there are no treatments that focus specifically on gaming addicts.
He said: “Not everyone who games will be or become an addict, but for some, it will ruin their lives as much as using heroin would. Unfortunately, the Government has no get-up-and-go when it comes to helping those with gaming addiction.
“There’s currently no investment into early prevention and intervention strategies to help prevent gaming addiction, nor is there any real investment into helping treat those already struggling with it. We’re calling on the government to put their hands into their deep pockets and help those most vulnerable.”