It is no secret that gambling companies in the United Kingdom are facing some serious criticism. Increasingly, gambling companies are coming under fire from social welfare agencies, health agencies, addiction agencies, and consumers. Many people have criticized the companies because they feel they take money without any consideration of the consequences. Now, the largest gambling firms in the United Kingdom have pledged $72.5 million to help fund treatment. The money will fund treatment programs for gamblers through 2023.
How Many People Who Gamble in the U.K. Have an Addiction?
The Gambling Commission, which oversees gambling in the United Kingdom, said more than 9 million citizens gamble regularly. This represents about 15 percent of the entire British population of 66 million people. Citing numbers from research institutions, the commission said there are 2 million people who have a gambling problem. More than 430,000 are considered gambling addicts. Many critics said their biggest concern is that 55,000 gambling addicts are children between the ages of 11 and 16. This substantial figure has led to an outcry in the country.
What the Gambling Companies Have Pledged to Do
The British government has already put a voluntary levy on gambling companies. It said the companies would pay this levy in addition to their taxes. The gambling companies have pledged to donate 1 percent of their profits toward treatment programs for problem gamblers. Depending on how well the companies do, the money raised should be between $72.5 million and $121 million each year.
While not all gambling companies have agreed to pledge additional money to the fund, the largest companies have. Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill, SkyBet, Paddy Power Betfair, and Bet 365 agreed to raise their donations to 1 percent.
The Outcry Over Gambling Addiction in the U.K.
The pledge by the gambling companies to increase their contributions comes amid a firestorm of criticism. Many social welfare agencies said that the companies pay nearly $2 billion a year to market gambling. The companies only agreed to pay $6 million a year from their profits for gambling addiction treatment before their announcement.
There has been growing talk about gambling companies and their enormous profits when compared with the personal losses of addicts. The National Health Service chief executive declared the government could tax gambling companies more heavily to pay for treatment programs.
Social welfare agencies have said that gambling addiction is a health crisis. They compare this health crisis to the crisis of alcohol abuse a decade ago and tobacco use 30 years ago. It took government intervention to curtail the number of people drinking and smoking. In both those cases, the National Health Service noted, it was an outcry from health-care workers that promoted legislation. The NHS has said repeatedly it is not the gambling companies that are picking up the tab for the treatment of gambling addiction. It is, in fact, the NHS, that has been paying for it.
The holding company that owns Paddy Power Betfair said it had no choice but to change. If it didn’t, the company would receive more taxes. The U.K. government would also restrict its sponsorship.
One of the largest sponsorships for gambling companies is the Premier League. Football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom. Gambling companies were worried that the government would crack down on team sponsorship. Currently, gambling companies can sponsor everything from team jerseys to the stadiums themselves. Companies see this as a moneymaking opportunity. The government has already begun to act on team sponsorship. It has banned gambling advertising during live games.
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