EXCLUSIVE: Betting firms face new gambling levy – and the NHS will get the money… after William Hill is fined £19 million by watchdog
- A Government white paper is expected to create levies for gambling companies
- It comes after William Hill was fined a record £19.2million by industry watchdog
Gambling companies would be hit with a new Government levy, with the proceeds diverted to the NHS, under plans being considered by Ministers.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that a new gambling white paper is likely to include proposals for a compulsory contribution to treatment programmes for gambling addicts.
It has emerged just days after betting giant William Hill was fined a record £19.2 million by the industry watchdog for failing to protect its customers from accruing unpayable debts.
Currently, all operators with a UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) licence must make an annual contribution ‘to one or more organisation(s) which deliver research, harm prevention and treatment for those harmed by gambling’.
But given the widely varying amounts contributed by the companies, Whitehall officials have argued that the ‘playing field needs to be levelled’, by making the payment standard and obligatory.
Gambling companies would be hit with a new Government levy, with the proceeds diverted to the NHS, under plans being considered by Ministers. Pictured: ‘Bookie Belt’ in Birmingham
It has emerged just days after betting giant William Hill (pictured) was fined a record £19.2 million by the industry watchdog for failing to protect its customers from accruing unpayable debts
The Gambling Commission will launch a consultation on the scale of the levy and how it will be tailored to companies’ differing profits and revenues.
The NHS refuses to accept voluntary contributions from the companies to fund treatment services, arguing that it is a conflict of interest. But an effective ‘gambling tax’ would circumvent that problem.
A Government source said: ‘The gambling white paper will be the most comprehensive review of betting laws in more than 15 years.
‘Its purpose is to ensure that our gambling laws are fit for the digital age – because the landscape has changed significantly since the Gambling Act in 2005.
‘The plan is to give people the choice and freedom to gamble responsibly, while preventing addictive and harmful gambling. One of the main ways will be through the introduction of a new levy.
‘A new statutory levy could directly fund the NHS to expand treatment services for gambling addiction to ensure people have access to the services they need, when and where they need them. Many researchers will not accept voluntary funding from [the gambling] industry. The independence of research funded by it has been called into question. The levy would therefore provide long-term, reliable funding, including for the NHS.’
However, some sources say that the plan could lead to splits in No 10, claiming that when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was Chancellor, he objected to the idea of a levy. One source said: ‘Rishi opposed it on the grounds that we pay billions in tax already and he didn’t want to look as if he was in favour of new ‘nanny state’ taxes on business.
‘He also has the Catterick racecourse in his constituency, and was worried that it would hurt racing. Also, it begs the question. Will the National Lottery have to cough up?’
However, some sources say that the plan could lead to splits in No 10, claiming that when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was Chancellor, he objected to the idea of a levy
Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents firms in the sector, said: ‘Around 22.5 million people in this country enjoy a regular flutter. 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.
‘Nevertheless, the industry’s biggest companies committed an extra £100 million to tackle gambling-related harm from 2019 through a new voluntary levy. They have gone further and have donated £110 million by 2024.
‘They give more in other ways, including a £10 million harm prevention programme for school-aged children. All of this is in addition to the £4.2 billion we generate in tax – money that already helps fund the NHS.’
Mr Dugher – a former Labour MP and one-time Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – added: ‘I support this voluntary levy now becoming mandatory and have proposed that for all BGC members, so we are not against this in principle.
‘What’s important now 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’.’
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