The idea behind the Labour Party’s consultation document ‘More Sport for All’, recently announced by Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, is excellent as are most of the specific policy ideas explored in the document. Encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to take part in sport and physical activity is highly important and ideas such as re-introducing two hours of sport for every primary school child, increasing female participation in sport and its organisation, and having a ten-year National Strategy for Sport, all seem like good ideas.

The exception is the idea of a new levy on sports betting to support community sport and help raise awareness about problem gambling. Gambling Watch UK opposes this on the following grounds.

Horse racing and the betting associated with it has, over a very long period of time, become an accepted part of British sporting and social life. Although there have always been problems associated with horse race betting, such as the effect of problem gambling on individuals and their families, and periodic fraudulent betting scandals, it can be argued that we have ‘adapted’ to it over time so that the scale of those problems is kept within limits that society finds tolerable.

The situation that pertains to other forms of sports betting is very different. Betting on dog racing has never been so popular as horse race betting and has been declining. But one of the biggest changes in British gambling in recent years, as evidenced, for example, in the results of the national gambling surveys carried out from 1999 onwards, has been the increase in other kinds of sports betting including betting on football, tennis, cricket and many other sports. This has been a comparatively rapid development reinforced by an expansion of the ways in which bets can be placed (e.g. by machine or online via a betting office or internet gambling account), an expansion of the bets that can be placed (e.g. in football on many aspects of play such as goal scorers, corners, penalties, penalty cards), the timing of bets (e.g. ‘in play’ betting such as betting at half-time in a football match), plus an expansion of betting advertisements to which children and young people as well as adults are exposed. This is all quite new and remains controversial. Whether the public is happy with such exposure to betting advertising, whether we are endangering new generations who are facing potentially dangerous activities which their parents and grandparents did not have to face, whether the overall prevalence of problem gambling will rise, and whether one effect will be to increase health inequalities, all remain open questions.

If it is accepted that that picture is at all accurate, it can be argued that a levy on sports betting is an inappropriate way to fund community sports facilities and clubs since it encourages the normalisation of an increasingly complex and rapidly changing form of gambling which there is reason to think may be dangerous, about which we still do not know enough, and about which the public probably remains highly ambivalent. In addition it will have the effect of making sports facilities and clubs dependent on gambling proceeds which is in itself unsatisfactory since it makes a health-enhancing enterprise dependent on one which is potentially dangerous to health, leading to a conflict of interests which has been widely criticised elsewhere, for example in Australia where clubs as well as State and Territory governments have become highly dependent on gambling revenue. It would be a wrong and unwise move to link sport and sport betting so closely at this time.

It would also be strange to simultaneously benefit from gambling revenue and use the same levy to increase awareness about the problems associated with that same activity. The conflict of interests would be too obvious for comfort and might show a Labour government up in a poor light. The mechanisms for funding the prevention and treatment of problem gambling should be separate from those used to tax gambling profits. The existing method of an annual voluntary levy on commercial gambling providers is used to fund gambling treatment and research, but I and others have argued that this raises far too little and is not sufficiently separate from the gambling industry to be seen as properly independent. But the more important point is that the negative externalities associated with gambling (particularly debt, dependence, and family harm) are such that government should face up to its responsibility to adequately fund gambling prevention, research and treatment from general taxation as it does for other comparable conditions such as illicit drug misuse (which has a very similar annual British prevalence).

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Latest UK News

Gambling industry fails to answer calls for controls during the virus crisis

14 Apr 2020

I was one of 12 academics and doctors who sent a letter to the Times last week calling for a suspension of gambling advertising during the crisis. Twenty...

Are betting companies taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis?

28 Mar 2020

Betting companies, like so many others, are facing uncertainty created by the coronavirus crisis. Will their profits decrease or, because people are confined...

New book on gambling is a must-read

24 Mar 2020

Rebecca Cassidy 2020 Vicious Games: Capitalism and Gambling. London: Pluto Press. No one knows better than Rebecca Cassidy the way in which betting has...

Gambling company sponsorship of football – What should be done?

09 Mar 2020

Following the announcement of a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling in the UK from April, the spotlight is now on the Government to see how quickly it...

Gambling Commission’s industry groups on safer gambling: a conflict of interests

07 Feb 2020

The Gambling Commission is setting up three industry-led working groups to help take forward its ‘drive to make gambling safer’ (see GC newsletter 27 January...

Betting companies admit that a huge percentage of ‘deposits’ come from a few customers

07 Feb 2020

The five big betting companies have admitted, for the first time, under questioning from members of the House of Lords Select Committee on gambling harm, that...

Gambling with credit cards banned from April

22 Jan 2020

After holding a consultation, the Gambling Commission has decided to ban gambling operators accepting payment with credit cards, starting on April 14th. At...

NHS England blames the gambling industry for gambling addiction and plans new gambling clinics

08 Jan 2020

‘The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling related ill health’, says NHS England. Their data show the number of gambling related hospital admissions has...

Pub allows under 18s to use gambling machines and loses its permit

19 Dec 2019

For the first time a British pub has been stripped of its permit to have gambling machines on its premises (Gambling Commission 16 December 2019). Redbridge...

Parliamentary group lambasts online gambling

05 Dec 2019

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (APPG-GRH) has produced an Interim Report into the Online Gambling Sector which does not mince...

Political parties pledge gambling reform

05 Dec 2019

All four main political parties going into the December 12th general election make specific mention of gambling in their manifestos. Congratulations to...

'The Gambling Establishment' is published - a must read

18 Sep 2019

An important new book will be out in a few days time: The Gambling Establishment: Challenging the Power of the Modern Gambling Industry and Its Allies, by Jim...

The tide is turning against the gambling industry

09 Aug 2019

Great BBC TV programme available online at from 4 July 2019. Comedian Lloyd Griffith fails to double his money during a week of gambling,...

Gambling with Lives launch shows the tide is turning

17 Nov 2018

Tuesday this week, 13th November 2018, was the launch of Gambling with Lives (GwL) at the Houses of Parliament. The event was extremely well attended by...

Gambling with Lives

16 Aug 2018

Gambling with Lives (GwL) is a new group started by the parents of a young man with a gambling addiction who committed suicide. They are naturally grief...

FOBT Stake Cut to £2 Maximum

17 May 2018

The Government has at last seen sense and done what we and so many others have been asking for. Today it has announced it is bringing the maximum stake per...

What do you think about online gambling marketing: Gambling Commission wants to know

13 Feb 2018

The Gambling Commission (GC) has announced that it is working with the Competition and Markets Authority to make sure that online gambling companies bring...

Gambling: a big public health problem neglected

15 Sep 2017

The Gambling Commission has just published a summary of British survey findings for 2015. The results are not new but this is the first time they have put...

Are we seeing a backlash against liberalised commercial gambling?

05 Jun 2017

I have seen a couple of signs just recently that the tide might be turning against the establishment assumption that a strong, innovating and widely...

Gambling problems are costing Government hundreds of millions

13 Jan 2017

An important report came out at the end of 2016. This was from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an influential and progressive British...

What shall we say to the Government enquiry on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?

07 Nov 2016

Good news! Well maybe, let’s wait and see what the actual outcome is. But we do welcome the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) putting out a...

Honest admissions by prominent gambling establishment figure

11 Aug 2016

Gambling Commission’s former Chair talks at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)   Following his five years as Chair of the Gambling Commission, Philip Graf was...

Support Gambling Watch UK

Together we can make a difference

We believe there is overwhelming support for the view that there are already too many opportunities for gambling and that this is bad for individual, family and community health, but our voices need to be heard if we are to influence public policy..

Click here to register your support