UK operators confirm plans to increase voluntary RG levy

19 June 2019

Five of the UK’s leading sports betting operators have voluntarily agreed to increase funding for problem gambling treatment and safer gambling.

William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings, Flutter Entertainment (formerly Paddy Power Betfair), The Stars Group-owned Sky Betting & Gaming and bet365 have agreed to increase their voluntary contribution from 0.1% to 1% of gross gaming yield in no more than five years.

As a result of the funding increase, voluntary levy will eventually raise £100m (€112.4m/$126.0m) each year for charities that provide treatment and support for those suffering from gambling-related harm. Last year, money raised through the levy fell short of its £10m target.

In April, gambling charity GambleAware called for UK operators to provide more financial support for its problem gambling treatment efforts after industry funding failed to meet its 2018-19 target. Voluntary donations from the industry during the 12 months to March 31, 2019 amounted to £9.6m, short of the £10m that trustees of the charity had asked of the market.

In addition, the chief executives of each company will launch a consultation process with relevant stakeholders to develop a long-term plan to protect the young and vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and to expand treatment available to problem gamblers.

This will result in a long-term, costed plan, to be announced by the end of the year.

“We have engaged constructively with the DCMS Secretary of State on safer gambling measures including an increase in voluntary funding for research, education and treatment,” a spokesperson said on behalf of the five operators.

“We will continue to engage on the issues and will consult with all relevant stakeholders on this to understand how best to achieve our shared aim of minimising the impact of gambling-related harm,” they said. “In addition, we have been working with a broader number of operators on measures to minimise gambling related harm and will comment on them in due course.”

Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State at the DCMS, confirmed to the BBC that he had met with operators to discuss plans as to how the industry can better address gambling-related issues.

“I want the gambling industry to step up on social responsibility and keep their players safe, including through making more funding available for research, education and treatment to tackle problem gambling," Wright told the BBC.

"I have met the major players in the sector recently and my department is in discussions with them on a strong package to increase their financial contribution, as well as make meaningful commitments on other measures to help ensure people gamble safely.”

It comes amid increasing public and political pressure for the industry to do more to protect consumers, which has already seen maximum B2 gaming machines stakes cut to £2, and Remote Gaming Duty increased to 21% of gross revenue, from April this year. Operators have also committed to a 'whistle-to-whistle' ban on advertising around live sport, effective from the start of the 2019-20 football season. GVC, one of the UK's largest operators, has even called for a total ban on broadcast advertising by gambling operators.

Politicians, meanwhile, are calling for more action from the industry to prevent gambling-related harm. Carolyn Harris MP, chair of the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), has invited online gambling operators to appear publicly before the APPG to answer questions the negative effects of gambling, and to discuss how they minimise the risks.

This week, Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party and a vocal backer of regulatory reform, revealed plans to establish a new gambling ombudsman to oversee the national industry and renewed calls for igaming operators to reapply for their licences. Watson is keen for the industry to better protect players and has called for all operators licensed by the GB Gambling Commission since 2014 to reapply for approval to operate in the market. He said that this would ensure that all licensees are capable of operating fairly and transparently.