William Hill and Bet365 amongst betting companies who will fund treatment programs for gambling addiction
Bet365, Paddy Power-owner Flutter, Ladbrokes-owner GVC, Sky Betting & Gaming, and William Hill have joined forces to tackle problem gambling. Together they have pledged 60m a year between them to fund treatment programs for those suffering from gambling addiction.
The companies have said they will increase their commitment from 0.1 per cent of their gross gambling yield to 1 per cent, starting from 2023, which means they will only spend a total of £100million on addiction treatments - or £25million a year between the five of them over the next 4 years.
The move comes in the wake of criticism over the massive amounts of money bookies spend in marketing to attract customers, and public pressure over the need to create a safer playing environment. Figures from GambleAware, the UK's leading gambling charity, show gambling firms spent a total £1.5billion in marketing in 2017 - a 56 per cent increase since 2014.
The companies have also agreed to 'review the tone and content' of advertising and marketing, as well as increase messages regarding safer gambling. The Gambling Commission currently estimates that there are around 2 million individuals with serious gambling addiction or at risk of it in the UK.
Peter Jackson, chief executive officer of Flutter, representing all five gambling companies, described the move as 'unprecedented'.
'The whistle-to-whistle advertising ban was a good start; now we are funding a significant expansion in treatment and we continue to work on a number of areas of collaboration and best practice. Our aim is nothing less than a step change in how we tackle gambling-related harm," he said.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said the gambling industry had 'a responsibility to tackle problem gambling' and contribute to the cost of treatment, saying:
"We will monitor closely the progress of these new measures and encourage the wider industry to step up. The Government will not hesitate to take further action to protect people from gambling-related harm."
While Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said the gambling industry only contributes a 'paltry amount' to helping treat gambling addiction, which costs the economy £1.2billion a year.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Watson said: 'Some companies contribute amounts which are, frankly, insulting to a voluntary system."
Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, said they welcomed the pledge from betting firms: "Customers should be able to gamble in a safe environment, where help and advice is readily available at the point of need. It is vital that we work closely with the commission, government and other organisations to ensure that operators continue to focus on making gambling products safer, and that treatment and support is properly funded alongside other initiatives including the Safer Gambling campaign, Bet Regret."