GambleAware welcomes statutory UK industry levy, but warns of issues not addressed in consultation

UK gambling harm education and prevention charity GambleAware has welcomed the establishment of a statutory industry levy, arguing it will help fund problem gambling research.

GambleAware welcomes the introduction of a statutory industry levy to fund gambling harms research, prevention and treatment (RPT). This is something we have long called for and it marks an important step-change in efforts to tackle gambling harms,” GambleAware’s CEO Zoë Osmond said in a statement.

Osmond’s statement followed the closure of the consultation on the statutory levy on the structure, distribution and governance of the statutory levy on gambling operators. One of several measures outlined in the Gambling Act white paper, the proposed levy would be set as a 1% fee on gross gambling yield for online operators, while traditional betting shops and casinos would pay a fee of around 0.4%.

Under this framework, operators would pay the levy to the UK’s Gambling Commission, with the hope that this will ensure all licensees pay their fair share to support efforts against problem gambling. It marks a departure from the current voluntary levy scheme, which allows operators to pay a chosen sum.

Following years of uncertainty, the levy will provide clarity of funding for the gambling harms sector, support long-term planning and prevent duplication of work. We hope this means we can finally move on from the unhelpful distraction of debates about independence and funding, to now focus on working collaboratively to ensure the best system is in place to protect people from harm,” added Osmond.

According to GambleAware, the levy has the potential “to transform the prevention and treatment of gambling harms for those at-risk and their loved ones.” The UK government says the levy would raise an estimated £100 million ($121.7 million) per year.

GambleAware raises concerns

While the charity welcomes the proposed levy, it also sees potential issues with its implementation. Osmond highlighted “several core elements” of the proposed approach that GambleAware believes could impact service provision and access for those in need.

To ensure the levy is as effective as possible, the charity says a National Strategy for the Prevention and Treatment of Gambling Harms must be developed to underpin the new system. “This is not in the proposals, but without one it will not be possible to transform the capacity and capability and develop an integrated system of prevention and treatment,” said Osmond.

For the CEO, a public health approach would be the most effective and cost-efficient way of addressing a societal issue like gambling harm. GamblingAware’s preference would be to have a single Prevention and Treatment Commissioner to ensure increased awareness of the issue and equal accessibility of services across England, Scotland and Wales. 

In the absence of this, Osmond said it is essential that the Treatment and Prevention Commissioners work closely together “within an agreed strategic and governance framework,” to ensure the system is working as effectively as possible.

Moreover, GambleAware also called for changes to the proposed funding allocations, which the charity feels “do not adequately reflect the potential population-level benefits” of early intervention.

“In order to have a meaningful impact on gambling harm at a population level across Great Britain, prevention must be reprioritized with additional funding. At a minimum, there should be an equal focus on both prevention and treatment,” Osmond said.  

Lastly, GambleAware calls for “a smooth and stable transition” to the new system, which it deemed “vital.” Leaning on the established expertise of the third sector will be critical, Osmond says, and clarity on funding for both GambleAware and the wider sector is “urgently needed” to prevent any disruption to the existing support and treatment services.

White Paper consultations move forward

The statutory industry levy is one of the key proposals of the Gambling Act review white paper. Published in April 2023, it outlines how the UK will look to update gambling regulation, and features proposals on affordability checks, sports betting and machine numbers, among others. 

Consultations on the proposals started in July last year, with a first round on financial risk and vulnerability closing in October, which received over 3,000 submissions in total. The next round of consultations is set to close in February or March this year, and considers seven topics, among them opting in for online bonuses.

UK industry body Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) has shown its support for the white paper, including the planned levy. However, the trade group has called for the levy to go further and be applied to all UK operators, including the National Lottery.