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The UK government has set out proposals for a statutory levy on the gambling sector to help fund the research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction.

The proposal was revealed today (17 October) by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and will be open for public consultation over the next eight weeks.

Under the plans, online gambling operators would be required to contribute 1% of their annual gross gambling yield (GGY), while land-based operators facing higher fixed costs would be required to contribute a lower rate of around 0.4%.

Existing voluntary levy

At present the research, prevention and treatment of gambling addiction is funded by a voluntary levy paid by UK licensees.

As a result of its voluntary nature, the government said some operators currently pay “as little as £1” towards the cause.

“The government is therefore acting to ensure all operators contribute their fair share,” it added.

Gambling companies have previously been accused of making “insulting” contributions of just a few hundred or few thousand pounds to industry-funded addiction charity GambleAware, which received a total of £34.7m via the voluntary levy in 2021/22.

Under the new proposal, the government suggested a statutory levy could provide as much as £100m annually in new funding.

In addition, the proposal would also see the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) become the main commissioner of gambling-related treatment.

Therefore, “the gambling industry will no longer have a say over how money for research, prevention and treatment is spent,” the government said.

Government commentary

“The introduction of this levy will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to gamble safely,” said Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer (pictured).

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew added: “This consultation brings us a step closer to being able to provide £100m of new funding for research, prevention and treatment, including ring fenced investment for the NHS to help gambling addicts.

“Gambling firms should always pay their fair share and this new statutory levy will ensure that they are legally required to do just that.”

Meanwhile, national clinical adviser for gambling harms Henrietta Bowden-Jones welcomed the proposal, which she said would allow the sector “to continue our work of eradicating all gambling harms from society.”

Claire Murdoch, mental health director for the NHS, concluded: “It is only right that this billion-pound industry steps up to support people suffering from gambling addiction and I am pleased that action is being taken to prevent people from coming to harm in the first place.”

Industry response

The proposal has been welcomed by trade association the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which said it had already proposed the introduction of a mandatory levy to the government before the publication of the Gambling Act review.

It called, however, for the National Lottery to be included in the proposal, “who are not immune to having problem gamblers gamble with their products like scratch cards and instant win games.”

Finally, it added that the levy “must be applied on a sliding scale, with smaller percentage contributions from land-based operators,” and that there must be “adequate oversight to ensure levy funds are only distributed to charities and organisations delivering genuine research, education and treatment services to ensure long-term, sustainable funding.”

The government has called for further responses from industry stakeholders, clinicians, practitioners, academics, those with experience of harmful gambling and the wider public on its proposal.

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