There is a general consensus on this matter. It is immoral to encourage gambling in children and young adults who are not mature enough to be able to balance their judgement. There is still an issue around gaming on pads and phones which needs to be controlled.
Gambling adverts during live televised sports would be banned and bookmakers made to pay more than £140 million towards helping to treat addicts under a Labour government.
The opposition will announce a series of measures today designed to deal with Britain’s “hidden epidemic”.
Tom Watson, the shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, said: “We must treat problem gambling as a public health emergency. Current regulation is not up to the job of protecting addicts and those at risk of addiction. Treatment is patchy across the country and too often patients are misdiagnosed.
“Gambling companies have to take more responsibility for harms caused by their products and contribute more to research and treatment.
“We must also face up to the negative effect the explosion in gambling advertising has had and act accordingly.” During the football World Cup almost one in five adverts shown were for betting websites. Experts say they fuel addiction and normalise betting among children. Over the past ten years, the number of gambling adverts on TV has risen by more than 600 per cent.
Labour’s “whistle to whistle” ban would stop adverts immediately before, during and after games.
The opposition also announced that the gambling industry would be forced to pay 1 per cent of profits — more than £140 million — to help to pay for better treatment for addicts. At present, there is a voluntary levy of 0.1 per cent and many companies do not contribute at all. Last year, it raised only £9 million.
A Labour spokesman said: “The increase in funding could be used to better train existing mental health staff and clinicians to diagnose and treat gambling disorder, as well as increase the number of specialist clinics around the country.” Labour would also ban credit card betting.
The proposals were welcomed by campaigners but questioned by advertisers. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ spokeswoman on behavioural addictions, said: “A ban on gambling adverts during live sports matches is welcome and in line with the recent national drive to treat gambling-related harm.
“The plans to introduce a statutory levy in order to increase funding for treatment services will be welcomed by all those who wish to see an adequate, well-funded, evidence-based provision of problem gambling services.”
A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling added: “Most people will wonder why Labour’s common sense proposals weren’t implemented a long time ago.”
Stephen Woodford, of the Advertising Association, said: “Ultimately, gambling operators should be allowed, within a framework of responsibility, to advertise freely — the funding from these businesses contributes greatly to the high quality sports programming enjoyed by millions.”
LABOUR PLAN TO BAN GAMBLING ADVERTS
Sir, Labour’s report on problem gambling is welcome, although its stance is perhaps ironic given that Labour’s liberalisation a decade ago led to the present problems (“Labour vows to ban gambling adverts during live TV sport”, Sep 20). Although the report refers to a “hidden” epidemic, we know from experience that it is sadly anything but hidden.
This is a public health issue: two suicides every working day are linked to gambling, as are higher rates of divorce and family breakdown, not to mention that gambling problems costs the NHS at least £610 million a year. I support the proposals for a whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising during sporting events, something for which all political parties are calling. I also back the proposal for gambling companies to pay a compulsory 1 per cent levy. The £10 million currently raised through a voluntary levy is insulting to both the victims and taxpayers, who pick up the tab.
Society has a moral responsibility to protect the vulnerable from becoming gambling addicts and to support those who are addicted with treatment. I hope that we will not have to wait for a new government to implement these ideas. The present administration must act now.
The Right Rev Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans