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Problem Gambling

– in the House of Commons at 1:10 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 1:10 pm, 2nd July 2019

Before I make my statement, Mr Speaker, I hope you will allow me to send my best wishes—and, I am sure, those of the whole House—to the Lionesses in advance of their semi-final match this evening. As you know, sport so often brings us together. The men’s football team did so at their World cup last summer and the women are doing so at their World cup this summer. We salute them for that. We congratulate them on their successes so far and wish them well for the game tonight.

This statement is about today’s announcement on support for those affected by problem gambling. While we all want a healthy gambling industry that makes an important contribution to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect those that use it. Problem gambling can devastate lives, families and communities. I have met those who have lost more than the UK’s annual average salary during one night of gambling online, and parents who are now without a child as a result of gambling addiction.

Over recent months, I have also met representatives from the gambling industry and colleagues from right across the House to discuss what more needs to be done. We can all agree that it is best to prevent harm before it occurs and to step in early where people are at risk, but we also need to offer the right support for those people who do experience harm. We have already acted to reduce the minimum stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £2 from £100. We have tightened age and identity checks for online gambling websites—an important step in protecting children and vulnerable people who may be at risk.

Today, five of the biggest gambling companies have agreed a series of measures that will deliver real and meaningful progress on support for problem gamblers. This announcement has been welcomed by the Gambling Commission, GambleAware and Gamban. These companies, together, represent about half of the British commercial gambling industry. At the heart of this package is a very significant increase in their financial contribution to fund support and treatment. Last year, voluntary contributions across the whole industry to problem gambling yielded less than £10 million. Now, five operators—William Hill; Bet365; GVC, which owns Ladbrokes Coral; Flutter, formerly known as Paddy Power Betfair; and Sky Betting & Gaming—have said that over the next four years they will increase tenfold the funding they give to treatment and support for problem gamblers. In this same period, they have committed to spending £100 million specifically on treatment. The companies will report publicly on progress with these commitments, alongside their annual assurance statements to the Gambling Commission.

Last week, as the House knows, NHS England announced that it is establishing up to 14 clinics for those with the most complex and severe gambling problems, including where gambling problems coexist with other mental health problems or childhood trauma. It has also been announced that the first NHS problem gambling clinic offering specific support for children is set to open. The funding announced today enables a huge boost for the other treatment services that complement specialist NHS clinics, and it will help us to place an increased focus on early intervention.

I know that Members across the House have argued for a mandatory, statutory levy to procure funds for treatment and support of problem gambling. I understand that argument. However, as the House knows, legislating for this would take time—in all likelihood, more than a year—to complete. The proposal made this morning will deliver substantially increased support for problem gamblers this year. It may also be said that receipts from a statutory levy are certain and those from a voluntary approach are not, but it is important to stress two things. First, these voluntary contributions must and will be transparent, including to the regulator, and if they are not made, we will know. Secondly, the Government reserve the right to pursue a mandatory route to funding if a voluntary route does not prove effective.

This is a clear financial commitment from industry to addressing the harms that can come from gambling. But this is not solely about spending money: it is a package of measures spanning a number of different areas to ensure that we tackle problem gambling on all possible fronts. First, a responsible gambling industry is one that works together to reduce harm and wants customers to be safe, whichever platform they use or however they choose to gamble. The companies already identify customers whose gambling suggests they may be at risk and take steps to protect them—their licences require this—but they will go further. We have already seen the successful launch of GamStop, the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. I am pleased that companies have committed to building on this through the greater sharing of data between them to prevent problem gamblers from experiencing further harm.

Secondly, the five companies will use emerging technology to make sure that their online advertising is used responsibly. Where technology exists that can identify a user showing problem gambling behaviours, and then target gambling adverts away from that person, they have committed to using it. More generally, the industry has already committed to a voluntary ban on advertising during live sport during the daytime that will come into force next month.

Thirdly, operators have committed to giving greater prominence to services and campaigns that support those in need of help. They have pledged to increase the volume of their customer safer gambling messaging; to continue their support for the BetRegret campaign, which is showing promising early results; and to review the tone and content of their marketing, advertising and sponsorship to ensure that it is appropriate.

These are welcome commitments that represent significant progress in the support that operators give for those impacted by problem gambling, but as technology advances, we will need to be more sophisticated in how we respond. The five companies that have proposed these measures today will be working closely with the Government, charities and regulators so that we can address any new or developing harms. I commend the leadership of the five companies who have put these measures forward. They are proposals from some of the industry’s biggest companies. I believe that it is reasonable for the biggest companies with the largest reach and the most resources to do more and show leadership, but the industry as a whole needs to engage in tackling problem gambling, and we want other firms to look at what they can do to step up. And I repeat: it will remain open to the Government to legislate if needed, so this is not the end of this conversation. We will keep working hard as a Government to make sure we protect users, whether online or in the high street.

There is still much more to do, but today’s announcement is a significant step forward. It means substantially more help for problem gamblers, more quickly than other paths we could take. We must and we will hold the companies that have made these commitments to them, and we will expect the rest of the industry to match them. They will change lives for the better and contribute to the ongoing work we are doing to make gambling safer for everyone. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Tom Watson Tom Watson Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 1:19 pm, 2nd July 2019

The whole House is united in supporting the Lionesses in their game at 8 o’clock tonight. The Opposition believe that we must capture the energy created by women’s football; 10 million people will be watching tonight. That is why we think that the next women’s World cup should be added to the “crown jewels” list of free-to-air sport.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. Last September, Labour announced that we would introduce a 1% mandatory levy on gambling companies to pay for research, education and treatment of problem gambling. We stand by that commitment today: only a mandatory levy will do.

I am glad that the gambling industry has sat up and listened to what we and other campaigners, on both sides of the House, are saying on this issue. Credit where it is due: the big five companies have shown leadership and responsibility, which are sorely lacking in some other parts of the industry. Gambling addiction costs the economy an estimated £1.2 billion a year, yet the amount that the industry currently contributes to treating addiction is paltry.

The voluntary levy, as it currently operates, asks for 0.1% of gambling yield. That target is never met. The industry turns over £14.5 billion a year, yet contributes less than £10 million a year to GambleAware. Some companies contribute amounts that are, frankly, insulting to the voluntary system. SportPesa, which sponsors Everton, and Fun88, which sponsors Newcastle, gave only £50 each last year. Both are white labels of the company TGP Europe. Best Bets gave £5, while GFM Holdings Ltd gave just £1. Given that there are 430,000 gambling addicts, 55,000 of whom are children, that is completely unacceptable and deliberately insulting to those leading players in the industry who are trying to take responsibility. Will the Secretary of State tell us how he will make such companies take more responsibility if not through a mandatory levy?

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care now supports a mandatory levy; Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, supports a mandatory levy; the Gambling Commission supports a mandatory levy; and Gambling with Lives supports a mandatory levy. However, I cannot quite understand from his statement whether the Secretary of State, who has responsibility for this policy area, supports a mandatory levy—does he or not?

We in the Opposition believe that a mandatory levy is the only way to provide the structure and consistent funding that a proper system of research, education and treatment needs, and with the NHS at the heart of the process. In the announcement today, the so-called big five have said they will fulfil the 0.1% donation to GambleAware, but where will the rest of the funding go? Who or what will establish the proper clinical models and guidelines for service provision? Can the Secretary of State tell us how the Government will ensure that the money does not just go on the companies’ pet projects?

After today, we will still have inadequate regulation and a Gambling Act that is outdated and not fit for the digital age. Gambling companies licensed in the UK are sponsoring UK football teams yet operating entirely abroad, behaving irresponsibly and fuelling addiction in countries such as Kenya. Companies are allowing customers to lose tens of thousands of pounds on multiple credit cards in a single sitting. There are companies that bombard customers who try to self-exclude with advertising emails and offers of free bets, then make them sign non-disclosure agreements when they settle.

The gambling market is broken, and it is up to the Government to fix it. We do not need a voluntary patch, but a full overhaul of rules and regulations. I fear that the Secretary of State and the Government will fail in that task.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for some, at least, of what he has said. I reassure him on a number of points. First, as he says, he has always been in favour of a mandatory levy that will raise 1% of gross gambling yield. The commitment being made by the five companies in question this morning is to fund 1% of gross gambling yield, so they are offering him what he has asked for. It seems sensible and reasonable to accept that that is what they are doing; I shall come to his other points about where the money goes in a moment.

It is also right, as the hon. Gentleman says, that the rest of the industry needs to do better—I said as much in the statement. It is important that other companies follow the example set by the five who have spoken this morning. They need to take more responsibility in the way that he suggests. As I have made clear, we do not take off the table a mandatory levy, particularly for those companies that are not prepared to proceed on a voluntary basis as the five now are.

I do not doubt that the reason why those five are proceeding in this way is a result of pressure applied by many in this House, including those of us in government who have met repeatedly with them to make clear what our expectations are and to say that, if those expectations are not met voluntarily, they will be met in other ways. I make the same clear to all those companies that have not yet come forward as those five have.

The hon. Gentleman makes the fair point that people will want to know that the funding goes to the right places and does not simply find itself recycled back into the budgets of the five companies. As a result of what has been announced today, there will now be consultation with the NHS, the Gambling Commission, GambleAware and others on where the funding should go. Those organisations, of course, are best placed to indicate where the funding can best be used. Then, of course, it will be for the Gambling Commission to audit how that spending is distributed so that we all know where it is going and we can all judge whether it has been sent to the right places. If it has not, we reserve the right to continue to act in a different way.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon

Some years ago, as shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I was sitting where Tom Watson is now. I witnessed the then Labour Government and their mammoth explosion of gambling, both online and elsewhere.

Despite repeated warnings, successive Governments have failed to tackle what is a pernicious problem, particularly among less well-off people. Historically, people with gambling and other addictions who have health insurance or money can get treated, so I very much welcome the fact that some of these companies are now going to fund treatment for the less well-off. But will the Secretary of State say a little more about how he envisages these clinics? Will they be sustained on a long-term basis? What is the geographical spread? Will the money be hypothecated? Critically, will the NHS match the money from the five companies to date?

I welcome the move today, but I have to say that I am not convinced that we will not need some kind of mandatory levy in the longer term.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s comments. He is right to be sceptical: we are all sceptical and remain sceptical in government about this. However, it would be wrong not to recognise the significant step forward that this announcement represents.

In answer to my right hon. Friend’s point about hypothecation, I should say that it has been made clear that £100 million of the money announced today will be reserved for treatment over the four-year period. We will want to make sure that the requirements for treatment are met via this contribution and those that we expect the rest of the industry to make.

As I mentioned in the statement and as my right hon. Friend knows, commitments have already been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to spend money on gambling, which is a recognised and real health problem. The money I have announced today is to supplement that. We must make sure that there is not duplication but rather that these contributions reinforce the money that is already committed.

Photo of Ronnie Cowan Ronnie Cowan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure)

I thank the Secretary of State for foresight of his statement. I appreciate the progress that is being made. Having discussed many of these issues with the Secretary of State and his Department, I genuinely believe that he gets it and is improving the situation, but I would take issue with a number of points. The statement touches on the argument for a mandatory levy, but undermines it by saying that it would take a year to complete. That reminds me of the old adage that my hon. Friend John Mc Nally often reminds me of: “When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty-five years ago.” If we do not start now, we will not be any closer a year from now. Is the Secretary of State suggesting that the gambling companies would withdraw their offer? If not, there is nothing to lose by starting the ball rolling now.

What we have now is an unacceptable compromise. Any amount that cannot be guaranteed, cannot be budgeted. If we are to provide education, research and support, it cannot be done piecemeal. We need to employ people, provide training and rent premises, and we need a strategy that can be followed over a five, 10 or even 15-year period. A voluntary levy does not provide such a platform. There is no continuity or security.

This offer is an attempted pay-off—a bribe—to appease the conscience of the gambling industry, and it takes the heat off. I fear it also allows the UK Government to absolve themselves of their responsibility. It leaves the commissioning of services to organisations favoured by the Gambling Commission, which is funded by the gambling industry. That is not a good model for commissioning harm-reduction services, or education and research. Will the Minister review the role of the Gambling Commission and its funding model to make sure it is effectively regulating gambling companies, including by legislating, if necessary, to ensure that responsible working practices are in place?

The draft statement says:

“I have met users who have lost more than the UK’s annual average salary on credit cards during one night of gambling online.”

Are we going to address gambling on credit cards? I see no word on that. It mentions fixed odds betting terminals, for which the maximum stake was set at £2, but let us not forget that the gambling industry was dragged kicking and screaming to the table on that particular one. I hope the same will not be said about harm reduction in years to come.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman started his comments with the mandatory levy. He is right, of course, that it will take time to do this. If someone is interested in how quickly they can do things, the sooner they start, the sooner they finish. All of that is true. I said it would take at least a year; it may in fact take nearer to 18 months because any of these changes will need to begin at the start of a tax year.

A mandatory levy would deliver a return of 1% of gross gambling yield. What is being put forward today—except by only five companies, but that represents about half of the commercial gambling industry—is exactly for that: 1% of gross gambling yield. We would not derive any more income from a mandatory levy than we will from this process, but via this process we will derive it more quickly, and that is a real advantage for the problem gamblers whom I know he and I are both very concerned to help.

I do not accept that this is a piecemeal commitment. It is a four-year commitment, which we—all of us; not just the Government—will have the opportunity to monitor. If it is not being met in the way we all expect, we can and will take further action.

The hon. Gentleman is right that the Gambling Commission receives its funding from the industry; that is generally the case with regulators. If we had a mandatory levy, it would still fund the same activities. However, I believe the Gambling Commission is the right body, as the regulator, to be able to give us the assurance, which the Opposition spokesman properly raised, that the money is being spent on the right things, not simply ploughed back into the activities of the five companies.

The hon. Gentleman knows I take the view that there is more to do in relation to gambling on credit. He knows, too, that the Gambling Commission is in the process of looking at this in detail. I want to see what it concludes, but I believe a lot more can be done on gambling on credit to make sure that those who are particularly vulnerable do not find themselves more vulnerable by gambling on credit.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

The Opposition spokesman mentioned an estimate of 55,000 children addicted to gambling. Do the Government accept that this terrifically large figure is accurate? If so, what proportion of it is a result of the advent of online gambling and what age verification measures are in place to supply at least part of the solution?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is difficult to be precise about the number of young people in particular who have problems with gambling, as my right hon. Friend will recognise, but it is a fair assumption that online gambling contributes significantly to that problem. As a result, we have already seen improvements in identification and age verification. We need to see further improvements to make sure that the trend decreases.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

I have been contacted by the family of a constituent who is addicted to online gambling and is trying to recover. There are some measures, to which the Secretary of State referred, to prevent online gambling, such as the website GamStop, which allows users to put controls in place to restrict their gambling activity. However, it is not compulsory for betting companies to sign up for this, and it is far too easy to bypass the current controls. Will the Secretary of State look at making GamStop mandatory, and will he support tougher controls?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We will certainly look at what more we can do. The five companies we have talked about are signed up to GamStop, and it is important that more accept this as a useful mechanism to help those with problem gambling. It is also right that we look at banks to make sure mechanisms are in place to allow the people who choose to do so to indicate to their bank that they do not wish to spend money in these areas. We have already seen banks such as Monzo and particularly Barclays, which is a large bank, doing exactly this. Other banks are now looking at it, at our urging, because it is important that we have additional safeguards in place.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

While I understand the arguments made by Tom Watson and sympathise with many of them because they are in the spirit of my ten-minute rule Bill, I cautiously welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, because I believe it will deliver money to start proper independent research and analysis on what can and should be done to protect the vulnerable.

With caveats, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to confirm: first, when will the voluntary levy start happening; secondly, can it be front-loaded, so that there is a pool of money to do the research as soon as possible; thirdly, who will determine who does the research; and, fourthly, how will those who have not yet volunteered be implored to join the party and to contribute a voluntary levy? Lastly, and slightly separately, what progress has been made on a ban on all gambling adverts during live sports?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Perhaps I may start at the end. My hon. Friend will know that in a few weeks—on 1 August—we expect to see instituted a ban on advertising during the currency of live sporting events before the watershed. Progress is being made, and we are pleased to see it.

I thank and pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the considerable pressure he has continued to apply to the industry. As I mentioned earlier, I believe the credit for this announcement goes not just to those making it, but to the many Members of this House on both sides who have applied consistent pressure to the gambling industry.

My hon. Friend asks when the voluntary levy will begin. As I indicated, one of the advantages of this approach in comparison with that of a mandatory levy is that we will start to see the fruits of it very shortly. By the end of this year, we expect to see additional funding coming through for the targets we wish to see addressed.

Secondly, my hon. Friend asks about front-loading. Of course, we want those who are going to be able to use this money to be able to set the parameters for how it should be used, so we must make sure that demand is met. At the moment, it is not likely that those who would be spending this money could spend £60 million a year. However, we of course want the industry to be receptive to requests for money as and when they are made, and it has indicated that it will be, so we must make sure we meet demand as it grows.

Thirdly, in relation to research funding and who will decide where it should go, as I have indicated, it will be for the industry to propose where this money should be spent, but it can be spent only in areas where the Gambling Commission and indeed others believe it is appropriate expenditure.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

Last Friday, the inquest opened into the death of my constituent Jack Ritchie and I spoke to his parents shortly before the statement. He is one of too many young men who have taken their lives as a result of gambling addiction.

The BBC reports that a gambling industry spokesman has said that the welcome but modest—let us admit that it is modest—action today is to protect it from further, tougher action from us such as that on the tobacco industry. The gambling industry is right to draw the comparison with tobacco because it makes billions by creating misery and taking lives. Does the Secretary of State therefore agree that we need to go further? That would include banking the concession on the voluntary levy, but preparing now for a mandatory levy; effective, independent regulation of gambling products, and moving towards the comprehensive ban on advertising and sponsorship that applied to tobacco?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As he may know, I have met Jack Ritchie’s mother, and I am grateful to her, too, for the considerable work she has done with immense dignity and courage in this field. I reiterate that the credit for the changes is to be shared widely. It is not simply for those in the House to take; it is for many beyond it, and Jack Ritchie’s parents are foremost among them.

The hon. Gentleman’s points are fair. I will not comment on what people may have said to the BBC. We must stick to the facts of the proposals and what they really mean, which is that we will recover from those five companies—as I have said, they comprise about half the commercial gambling industry— at least the same amount of money as we would if we had a mandatory gambling levy. There are questions about how we can be sure that the money finds its way to the right targets. We have sensibly dealt with those this afternoon and we will need to keep our attention on them. However, the amounts involved are similar if not identical to those that a mandatory levy would recover.

The proposals do not protect the industry from tougher action, and we will need to pursue matters further in a variety of ways—through advertising and other protections. We are not insulating anybody from further action on gambling. The Government will continue to do what we believe it is responsible to do to protect those who are vulnerable. However, it is fair to accept that the proposals are a significant step in the right direction and will produce a significant step up in the funding that gets to those who most need it, whose lives have been damaged by problem gambling and who require help now. The change will help us to deliver that assistance.

Photo of Trudy Harrison Trudy Harrison Conservative, Copeland

I thank the Secretary of State for the statement and the progress that he and the Department have made on this urgent problem, which blights the lives of many people in my constituency. Will he explain the steps that he is taking to ensure that the rules around online gambling keep pace with those for offline gambling?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Yes. My hon. Friend is right that we all need to address the increasing prevalence of online gambling in the mix. She will know that the Department is currently concerned with a variety of so-called online harms, which we are trying to address more successfully than has been done thus far. However, one of the advantages of online gambling is that those companies know more about their clients because it is account-based gambling. Our expectations of them should therefore be higher, and they are.

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

It is right that the gambling industry fulfils its responsibilities in tackling addiction, so today’s news is welcome, but I agree with my hon. Friend Tom Watson that much more needs to be done.

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge the unique position of horse-racing and its relationship with gambling in terms of the levy, sponsorship and live advertising? Does he also agree that millions of people like me enjoy a flutter on the gee-gees, a bet on the football and a visit to the casino or arcade without any difficulties, as an enjoyable pastime?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman is right. It is important to recognise that not all gamblers are problem gamblers and that we must focus our attention on those who are in difficulty. It is also right to recognise that, as I said at the outset, we want the industry to be successful. However, we also want it to be responsible, and I believe that the changes will lead to greater responsibility.

The hon. Gentleman is also right to focus on horse-racing. I know that he is a huge supporter of the industry and does a great deal in this place to raise awareness, which he has done again today. He will recognise that the Government have introduced several measures, including last year’s changes to the levy itself, which brought in substantially more income—about £45 million more. We want to ensure that gambling can continue for those who enjoy it and do it responsibly and that companies take full responsibility for ensuring that any problems are properly addressed.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

I welcome today’s announcement, which will lead to the biggest injection ever of funds to help with the treatment of problem gambling. I also welcome the commitment to take further action if required. Will the Secretary of State comment further on how we can use data to help solve the problem of gambling, particularly working with banks, credit card companies and the online sites, perhaps providing for the voluntary allowing of the use of data when people sign up to them?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is right that we are in danger of missing some of the other important aspects of what has been proposed today. One of the proposals is that companies should share between themselves, with the consent of the individual gambler, information on any warning signs about problem gambling so that action can be taken by any provider of gambling services to which a problem gambler turns after starting with a different operator. It is important that that data is made use of so that people can be helped as soon as they arrive at the second gambling operator. If we can get consent to share that data, that will be a significant step forward.

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

First, I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s remarks about the Lionesses. I have enjoyed their performances, with the obvious and I am sure understandable exception of the Scotland match.

I give the statement a small welcome. It goes some way towards addressing the problem, but not nearly far enough, and Liberal Democrats will continue to argue for a compulsory levy. Gambling addiction is a public health problem, with clear links to mental health issues, and it needs a public health response first. The real cuts in public health under the Government are estimated to be between £700 million and £1 billion. Does the Secretary of State believe that today’s commitment will somehow help reverse the damage done by the Government?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

First, I acknowledge the hon. Lady’s gracious comments about the Lionesses. I appreciate that she would not have enjoyed their first match, but I hope that she enjoyed the subsequent matches much more.

The hon. Lady is right that we are considering a public health problem. As I said a moment ago, the Government are approaching it as such, and further action will be taken in the NHS plans to deal with problem gambling, for both adults and children. She is also right about the significant overlap with mental health problems, which of course we need to address in parallel. The money we are discussing is to enhance and add to that provision, not to replace it. It is important to say that. It is £100 million that will be diverted to treatment over four years and I hope that it will add considerably to what can be done for people who suffer from those serious problems.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

I invite the Secretary of State to consider a mandatory levy from a slightly different point of view. In the statement, he rightly said that the five companies represent half the British commercial gambling industry. Would not it be fairer, under a mandatory levy, to spread that contribution across the whole industry, bringing everyone on board sooner rather than later, rather than expecting those five to pick up the bill for others, including overseas companies?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The point is that those companies are taking the action voluntarily. I welcome that positive step forward. However, no one in the House has said that that lets anybody else off the hook—quite the reverse: it demonstrates that if those five companies can do it, so can others. It is important that all others across the industry look carefully at the proposals and that we hold them to account for producing a similar commitment. If they are unwilling to do so, I have made it clear that we do not put away the prospect of further action.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Independent, Luton North

The growing nightmare of online gambling, which is destroying lives and families, has been successfully halted in places across the world, in Germany and elsewhere, by simply banning it in law. May I suggest to the Secretary of State that the problem of online gambling could be solved at a stroke simply by making all gambling cash only?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I think there is a different set of questions in relation to online gambling as an entire concept and gambling on credit. As the hon. Gentleman has heard me say, there is more we can look at specifically in relation to gambling on credit. I think we have to accept that the industry, like all others, is changing. As we live more of our lives online, people wish to exercise their leisure activities more online. I do not think it would be right to suggest that we should prohibit people entirely from gambling online if that is what they wish to do. As has been observed, most gamblers are responsible and able to gamble in a way that does not put them in difficulty. However, for those who do not have that capacity and do get into difficulty, we need to offer help. That help needs to be funded by the industry. That is what is being proposed here. For the rest of the industry that is not prepared to make the same commitment, we need to take further action.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

The gambling industry is one that disproportionately preys on communities with the least disposable income and least able to afford the social harms caused. Glasgow, which is home to 26% of Scotland’s most deprived communities, has the highest per capita density of betting shops of any part of the UK outside London. Indeed, there are 2,588 people per betting shop in Glasgow, compared to the richest council area in Scotland where there are 12,000 people per betting shop. There is a clear statistically significant correlation with the impact that is having on poorer communities. In Glasgow, the social harms of gambling addiction alone are estimated to be £35 million a year. That accounts for half the revenue proposed to be generated from the levy. It is certainly inadequate to deal with the extent of the social harm caused. What will the Secretary of State do to redress the £35 million loss and social harm to the city of Glasgow?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Government need to do a number of things, and I indicated that there are actions we need to take in relation to the health service, but I believe that a substantial amount of the responsibility lies with the gambling industry itself. Again, I stress that this is a very considerable increase in the funding that is being offered. The £100 million is what is specified over those four years for treatment, but the general commitment is to 1% of gross gambling yield—exactly the same commitment that is asked for by those who argue for a mandatory levy. This is an acceptance by the industry that it bears a share of responsibility. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not get the sense from anything I have said that the Government intend to let up the pressure. We do not.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

The online gambling problem is significant, but betting shops present a problem on the high street. Will any of the levy go to help local authorities to tidy up the high street not just physically but in terms of crimes committed in the vicinity, such as drug dealing and violent acts, which do break out a lot around betting shops?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the wider issues that occur. She will recognise that the commitment being made here and the conversation around the mandatory levy relates specifically to research, education and treatment. It is focused on those who are already problem gamblers and who need assistance in its treatment sense and in a research sense more broadly. We expect all partners—there are many—to work together to deal with some of the social problems she has identified. I take the view that the gambling industry is one of those partners.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I, too, give a cautious welcome to the Secretary of State’s statement. It is good news, as everyone says, that £100 million over four years has been pledged by gambling firms. However, does the Minister believe that that is not enough? Does he agree that the best way of dealing with this is not through a voluntary levy based on the least that can be gotten away with, but, rather, additional tax legislation on every gambling firm—those that have committed and those that have not—to help offset the cost to the NHS of dealing with gambling addiction?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman notes that the £100 million is specifically in relation to treatment, but more money is being pledged than that. He is right to draw attention to tax. As he will know, tax measures are already in place to derive revenue from the gambling industry. They raise about £3 billion a year at the moment and it is open to any Government to reconsider the tax regime if they think it appropriate to do so. At the moment, however, I believe we should approach this with an open mind. We should seek to ensure that not just these five companies make the contributions they are offering but that the rest of the industry does so too, so we can funnel that money to where it is most needed.