Sector hasn’t done enough
Sky Bet’s outgoing executive chairman Richard Flint has called for the gambling industry to provide more funding to help open treatment centers for gambling addiction. Speaking to BBC News, Flint said that the industry “hadn’t done enough to look after problem gamblers.”
Flint has less than a month left in his current role before he leaves Sky Bet, which is one of the most popular online gambling platforms in the UK. It is well known for being an innovator and bringing new ideas to the sector.
He said that in the past some operators in the sector may have been encouraging their customers to spend more than they could afford to lose. Flint admitted that his company had its own failings. Sky Bet itself was fined £1m in 2018 as a result of “failing to protect vulnerable customers.”
He believes if operators in the sector do not take more responsibility with self-regulation that the authorities will inflict stricter regulation on them.
Flint believes that there would be no need for a new statutory tax if operators came together and began funding a network of treatment centers across the UK. He said: “I’ve been to a gambling addiction treatment center and seen the devastation that gambling addiction has caused people and their families.”
Problem gambling is increasing in the UK, particularly among younger people. There are calls for stricter measures to curtail the advertising practices of gambling operators to combat the problem. Official figures from the UK Gambling Commission show that approximately 400,000 adults in the UK are struggling with gambling addiction.
Not everyone is happy with Flint’s comments. The charity Gambling With Lives says they were “insulting”. It says Flint is underplaying the extent of problem gambling and the damage it can cause.
Some who have been affected by gambling addiction in the worst way believe there should be a lot more focus put on the prevention of gambling addiction. Currently, most of the focus is on treatment.
The level of gambling participation has never been higher in the UK. In 2016, about 1.7 million adults were betting online on a monthly basis. In 2019, this figure almost doubled to 3.2 million adults. Naturally, the number of people developing gambling problems is also expected to rise.
More centers needed
Currently, there is only one treatment center in the UK that specializes in treating gambling problems. It is in London, but there need to be many more centers across the country. A second clinic will open in Leeds during the summer, where Sky Bet is currently based.
The British Medical Journal, GambleAware and other parties have called for the introduction of a mandatory levy on gambling companies. They believe the public cost of gambling addiction could be over £1.2bn annually. The mandatory levy would go towards funding treatment centers and other measures for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.
At the moment, gambling operators in the UK have a voluntary levy of 0.1% of revenues to pay towards funding treatment of gambling addiction. With the UK gambling companies earning in the region of £14.4bn annually, this equates about £14.4m.
The funds go to GambleAware, one of the major gambling addiction treatment charities in operation. However, it received less than £10m in voluntary contributions last year. Some operators have given sums as small as £1, making a mandatory levy increasingly likely.
This could result in up to £60m worth of funding going towards gambling addiction treatment each year. The UK Gambling Commission and the Labour Party support a mandatory levy.