The UK’s largest gambling operators have committed to spending a combined £60m per year by 2023 to fund responsible gambling programs.
On Tuesday, five major UK gambling operators – Bet365, Flutter Entertainment (formerly Paddy Power Betfair), GVC Holdings, The Stars Group’s Sky Betting & Gaming and William Hill – announced that they would raise their responsible gambling funding commitments from 0.1% of gross gambling revenue to 1% by 2023.
The combined commitment would result in funding of roughly £60m per year by 2023, a level that the companies have pledged to maintain going forward. The companies’ plans came after last month’s discussions with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which oversees gambling activity in the UK.
Around £6m of this increased funding will be designated for GambleAware, the industry-funded responsible gambling program that has routinely complained about the industry’s failure to meet the previous 0.1% revenue benchmark.
DCMS secretary Jeremy Wright (pictured) told parliament that the increased funding will help underwrite the National Health Service’s plans to open more clinics devoted to problem gambling treatment, including clinics specifically intended to focus on younger gamblers.
Predictably, news of the funding increase didn’t satisfy Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson, who repeated his calls for a mandatory levy on gambling operators rather than the “frankly insulting” amounts offered by some licensees. Waton said a voluntary funding model was insufficient to mitigate gambling’s effects on society, suggesting “a full overhaul of the rules and regulations” would be more appropriate.
Wright told parliament that the voluntary contributions “must and will be transparent, including to the [UK Gambling Commission], and if they are not made we will know.” Wright added that the government reserved the right to “pursue a mandatory route to funding if a voluntary one does not prove effective.”
Wright also warned gambling operators that the government expects “the rest of the industry to match” the commitments made by the big five companies, and the government wouldn’t hesitate to “legislate if needed” should the rest of the industry not “step up” their responsible gambling measures.