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Problem Gambling - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:35 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 3:35 pm, 2nd July 2019

I am grateful to both noble Lords. Among the criticism, I think that today’s announcement was welcomed. It is important to reflect on the fact that, whether there is a mandatory levy or not, this is a considerable amount of money in addition to the existing sum.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, said that the current voluntary levy does not produce the goods. We agree, which is why we negotiated with the five biggest companies a significant tenfold increase: they have agreed to increase 0.1% to 1% and, in the first four years, to commit a minimum of £100 million to treatment. Providing more money is not the only important thing here; the companies have also agreed to other voluntary things. We hope that noble Lords will accept that this is a big step forward. Of course, many people have talked about a mandatory levy for some time, saying that nothing would happen without one. Today’s announcement shows that something significant can happen; a tenfold increase is significant in anyone’s terms. As I said, this is about not just money but the attitude of the five largest companies, which should be given credit for providing leadership.

I agree that there is an issue with the remaining 50% of the industry. As I said, and as the Secretary of State made clear, we have not taken a mandatory levy off the table. However, the difference between this approach and doing the mandatory levy now is that we will get money into where it is meant to be, which is treating problem gamblers. That is to be welcomed.

The issue of credit cards was raised. We acknowledge the question of whether they should be used for gambling. We are looking at the evidence that the Gambling Commission has finished taking and at what the banks can do in addition to what they currently do, using their data on customers to look at forms of behaviour that their systems tell them might indicate problem gambling.

Today’s announcement comes in addition to the 14 new clinics already announced by the Secretary of State for Health; they are there to treat problem gamblers and addicts. We think that the Statement brings significant benefits. We will observe what happens over the next four years. This is entirely transparent. The companies will say what they do in the annual assurance that they must give to the Gambling Commission, so we can monitor them. We hope that the extra money and action will make a significant difference to what is generally acknowledged to be a significant problem.