UK Culture Secretary refuses to rule out mandatory levy

2 July 2019

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright said the UK government could introduce a mandatory levy if the gambling sector's voluntary funding plans do not raise enough cash to support the treatment and prevention of gambling harm.

Speaking in the House of Commons today (July 2), Wright praised measures taken by the industry to increase funding, but warned that if this voluntary approach does not prove successful, the government could take action

Wright was speaking after GVC Holdings, bet365, Flutter Entertainment, William Hill and Sky Betting and Gaming followed up plans to increase funding for problem gambling treatment by setting out a plan of action to create a safer gambling environment.

The operators have agreed to raise the current voluntary contribution towards funding problem gambling from 0.1% to 1% of gross gambling yield by 2023, as announced in June. This increase will reach an annual contribution of around £60m (€67.1m/$75.8m) by 2023.

“I know members across the House have argued for a mandatory, statutory levy to procure funds for treatment and support of problem gambling,” Wright said. “I understand the argument but of course the House knows that legislating for this would take time - in all likelihood more than a year to complete.

“The proposal made this morning will deliver substantially increased support for problem gamblers this year," he continued. "It may also be said that receipts from a statutory levy are certain, and those from a voluntary approach are not.

“But it is important to stress two things. First that these voluntary contributions must and will be transparent, including to the regulator, and if they are not made we will know. Second, the Government reserves the right to pursue a mandatory route to funding if a voluntary one does not prove effective.”

Wright added that he hopes other operators in the gambling industry will follow the example set by the five leading brands in taking a more focused approach to responsible gambling efforts.

“I believe it is reasonable for the biggest companies with the largest reach and the most resources to do more and show leadership,” he said. “But the industry as a whole needs to engage in tackling problem gambling, and we want other firms to look at what they can also do to step up.

“And I repeat, it will remain open to government to legislate if needed. So this is not the end of this conversation.”

Image: UK Parliament