non profit, rethinking gambling research, education, treatment and policy
The present system of financing gambling treatment, prevention and research through an annual voluntary levy of approximately £5-£6 million administered by the industry-led Responsible Gambling Trust, does not command respect and should be reformed. It should be replaced by a mandatory levy, including a proportionate contribution from National Lottery takings, substantially increased in size (to at least £50 million annually), and administered by a body that is completely independent of the industry.
Treatment, prevention and research should be decoupled so that the Responsible Gambling Trust no longer commission research and instead projects are selected by national research councils supported by ring-fenced revenue. This decoupling would enable a new knowledge base to grow and restore faith in field. The current arrangements are completely inappropriate and contrary to best practice in alcohol and tobacco research.
A minimum age of 18 years should apply to all electronic gambling / gaming machines (excluding coin-push and prize-grab games) whatever their stake and prize sizes. This would remove the anomaly whereby children and young people in Britain, unlike in other jurisdictions, are permitted to play on category D machines. The present position is inconsistent with a major purpose of the Gambling Act 2005, to protect children from harm from gambling.
Television advertising of any form of gambling should not be permitted before 9 p.m. This would also bring regulations more into line with the principle of protecting children from harm.
In Government, gambling should be seen as a cross-department issue, with the Department of Health, Home Office, and Department for Culture Media and Sport having regular and ongoing inputs. The Minister with chief responsibility for gambling should be a Department of Health Minister, reflecting an important shift towards seeing gambling first and foremost as a public health matter.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which offer high-stake gambling on virtual casino-type games, should not be permitted in venues outside casinos. This would deal with what has become the most dangerous form of highly accessible gambling and would reverse the process whereby high street betting shops are becoming town centre ‘mini-casinos’.
Any proposed new form of gambling, mode or type of venue, should be subject to a full social, health and economic impact assessment. This would be designed to avoid the kind of mistake that was made when, some years ago, FOBTs were permitted in British betting shops.
A national programme of treatment for problem gambling should be put in place ensuring that health services in all areas include facilities for the treatment of those with gambling problems and for their families.
The regular, three-yearly, British Gambling Prevalence Survey should be reintroduced, but with a better balance between questions about gamblers and questions about the products they gamble on.