BGC WELCOMES MANDATORY LEVY TO FUND RESEARCH, EDUCATION AND TREATMENT - IF IT PROTECTS LAND-BASED OPERATORS
BGC members would welcome a mandatory levy to fund Research, Education and Treatment (RET) services to tackle gambling related harm, if it is independent and tiered to protect land-based operators.
For over 20 years, the regulated betting and gaming industry has contributed millions to fund RET services via a unique voluntary levy on all operators.
This voluntary levy currently supports an independent network of charities which treats around 85 per cent of all problem gamblers receiving treatment in the UK.
BGC’s four largest members alone pledged a major uplift in RET contributions in 2019 with an additional £110 million - more than was forecast at the time - to be administered by the independent charity GambleAware by March 2024 to help fund this work.
All RET donations only go to independent charities accredited by the Gambling Commission to deliver RET services and BGC members have no say on where or how this funding is spent.
During the much-delayed review of gambling, BGC had previously made proposals to the Government that RET contributions should be mandatory, so the industry standards body said it would welcome an announcement from the Government whereby a new system would ensure mandatory contributions and continued independence of funding allocation. But BGC has also said that there should be a sliding scale and smaller percentage contributions from land-based gambling businesses who have disproportionately higher fixed costs like more premises and staff.
BGC is concerned the Government may announce in its forthcoming white paper a blanket 1% fee on all members. Just like other businesses working on the high street or in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, land-based operators, like bingo, casinos and betting shops, are facing severe economic headwinds, including a slower than expected post-Covid recovery, rising fixed operating costs and high inflation, as well as pressures on customers caused by the cost-of-living crisis.
BGC industry analysis suggests a new blanket 1% statutory levy to land-based operators would be the equivalent of between a 10% and 15% hit on post-tax profits, because of the fixed costs which do not equally apply to online operators.
BGC members contribute £7.1bn for the economy and generate £4.2bn in tax while supporting 110,000 jobs.
Casinos support 15,000 jobs and contribute £300 million in tax while betting shops support 42,000 jobs and pay £800 million to the Exchequer.
An announcement on a new levy model to fund RET is expected to be included in upcoming government reforms to betting and gaming in the UK.
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 government last year that contributions should be mandatory.
“But we want to see continued sustainable funding for RET provided it recognises the fact land based operators are under greater cost pressures, so there has to be appropriate mitigation, and that funds continue to be distributed effectively and genuinely independently.
“Our largest members 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, evidence led research. The mechanism used to generate those funds is an 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.
“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 per cent of adults. It is absolutely vital that treatment is available to those sadly suffering with the most serious cases of ‘disordered gambling’, who often have multiple complex health issues and who require treatment in clinics, who represent a minority of the Gambling Commission’s broader definition of the problem gambler cohort. There is some brilliant treatment available in the third sector and the Government should not put that provision 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 programme 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. 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’.
“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 claim 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.”
The BGC supports the Gambling White Paper as a further opportunity to raise standards and deliver jobs and growth, but any changes must not drive customers to the unsafe, unregulated gambling black market where the numbers betting have doubled in recent years and the amount wagered is in the billions.
According to Gambling Commission data around 22.5m adults in the UK enjoy a bet every month, whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, having a game of bingo, visiting a casino, playing online or having a wager on football, horseracing and other sports.
We are encouraged by the latest figures from the independent regulator, the Gambling Commission, which show the rates of problem gambling among UK adults is 0.2 per cent – down from 0.3 per cent the year previous.