Awaiting the UK government’s Gambling White Paper which will set out new reforms to wagering and gaming operations in the country, the industry standards body, Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), said in a statement that its members would agree to pay a mandatory levy to fund problem gaming programs if such a measure would protect land-based operators.
BGC Members Funding Projects:
Betting & Gaming Gaming Council indicated that the regulated betting and gaming industry has already funneled millions to Research, Education, and Treatment (RET) services through voluntary payments used to support around 85 percent of all problem gaming programs in the UK. Also, BGC reports that the four largest operators contributed additional 110 million pounds to the independent organization GambleAware in 2019 for the five-year problem-gaming project to be completed by March 2024.
The body further stated that all RET funds are donated exclusively to independent charities subject to the Gambling Commission’s approval. Its members would welcome the long-awaited governmental gambling review to rule in a mandatory levy, as well as to continue independent charity programs. BGC also said that the contribution percentage should differ for land-based businesses and online casino and sports betting operators and indicates that the former should pay a smaller percentage due to fixed costs for premises and staff and alike.
Requesting Lower Fee for Land-Based Operators:
The industry standards body comes up with the statement over concerns that the government may announce a 1% flat levy on all members in the forthcoming white paper. These concerns arise out of the post-Covid recovery figures, as well as rising inflation rates affecting land-based operations which, according to the statement, suggest a flat 1 % fee would have a stronger impact (equal to 10-15 % of tax after profit) on land-based operators due to fixed costs than online casinos that do not have these costs.
BGC members generate gross gaming revenue of around £7.1 billion a year and £ 4.2 billion in tax revenue. The industry supports around 110,000 jobs, with casinos supporting 15,000 jobs and generating £300 million in tax, and sports betting supporting 42,000 jobs and generating £800 million in tax revenue.
Funding Problem Gambling Should Be Mandatory:
BGC CEO Michael Dugher said: “I have said for some time that I am relaxed about a so-called statutory levy given that the money is already on the table from BGC members, it is already allocated independently of the industry and given that it was the BGC who proposed to the government last year that contributions should be mandatory.”
Dugher said that BGC wants to see continued funding for RET if the government recognizes ”the fact [that] land-based operators are under greater cost pressures.” He requests that funds ”continue to be distributed effectively and genuinely independently.”
Independent Organizations Should Be Funded:
“Our largest members,” continued Dugher, ” already pay 1% to fund Research, Education, and Treatment services via a wholly independent system. For the BGC and our members, the priority is ensuring the money reaches charities doing exceptional work and funds truly independent, as evidence led the research. The mechanism used to generate those funds is irrelevance by comparison. I also know that there were some in the NHS who had previously said they wouldn’t accept funding that came from the industry, so it is welcome that they now appear willing to do so.”
Dugher addressed the problem gambling issue, saying: “Around 22.5 million people in this country enjoy a regular flutter, and the overwhelming majority do so perfectly safely and responsibly, that’s why the rate of problem gambling is just 0.2 percent of adults. It is absolutely vital that treatment is available to those sadly suffering from the most serious cases of ‘disordered gambling’, who often have multiple complex health issues and who require treatment in clinics.”
Helping the Tiny Minority:
According to Dugher, they represent a minority of the Gambling Commission’s broader definition of the problem gambler cohort with ”some brilliant treatment available in the third sector,” which he sees as a provision that the Government should not ”put at risk.”
“The industry’s biggest companies committed an extra £100m to tackle gambling-related harm from 2019 through a new independent and voluntary levy. They have gone further and will have donated £110m by 2024. They also give more in other ways including a £10m harm prevention program for school-aged children delivered by leading charities YGAM and GamCare, which has reached over two million youngsters. This money is allocated completely independently of the industry and we rightly have no say on how or where it is spent,” said Dugher, and added:
”All of this is in addition to the £4.2 billion we generate in tax – money that already helps fund the NHS. What’s important is that the money goes to helping the tiny minority of people who need it, not wasted on the cottage industry of anti-gambling prohibitionists, masquerading their biased work as ‘research.”
Gambling Reforms Should Protect Land-Based Operators:
He finally stated: “But most importantly, any new system must be tiered to protect land-based operators like bingo, casinos, and betting shops, who have disproportionately higher fixed costs because of buildings and tens of thousands of staff. They are still struggling post-covid, like every other retail, hospitality, and entertainment business, with all the difficult economic headwinds. The Government claims they believe in low regulation and low taxes for businesses, so they need to avoid this new tax leading to job losses or more businesses going bust.”
BGC expects that the new levy model to fund RET will be included in the forthcoming gambling reforms in the UK. The body says that it supports the Gambling White Paper and expects no such changes that will drive the customers to the black market. The proposal to scale the percentage of the funding for problem gambling associations is another signal to the government about the industry sentiment that will help the legislators in conducting gambling reforms.
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