Fund addiction treatment through taxing gambling firms

The national mental health director for NHS England has said that gambling firms should be hit with a compulsory levy to fund addiction treatment.

Claire Murdoch denounced the voluntary system that lets the industry dictate how much it contributes to helping addicts. She said that such companies have profited during the pandemic but are leaving the NHS to ‘pick up the pieces’ of addiction.

Amid a government review of laws governing the £11 billion-a-year sector, Murdoch said 750 people have been referred to specialist clinics for treatment of serious addiction since April 2020. The health service is planning to open more gambling clinics across the country because it believes it is currently only reaching ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Research indicates that there are between 300,000 and 1.4 million gambling addicts in Great Britain, but a report published last year found that just three per cent of them were receiving specialist help, often relying on industry-funded helplines instead.

Murdoch said: “After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces. In a year when the NHS has dealt with our biggest challenge yet in Covid-19, the health service’s psychologists and nurses having been treating hundreds of people with severe gambling addictions.

“The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS, whether it be volunteering as vaccinators or showing their gratitude to staff. The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”

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