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I welcome this announcement today, but I notice from a press release from the companies that they see it as a health issue:
“The key priority will be to quadruple the number of those accessing treatment from 2.5% to 10%”.
After four years, 90% of those with gambling addiction problems will still be unable to access help. Surely that cannot be acceptable.
We know from Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS in England, that it looks like it will cost the NHS between £260 million and £1.2 billion a year. This is costing the general taxpayer a huge amount, when the industry, as I have said in the past, is privatising the profits and nationalising the costs. The key issue here is that we have to treat this as a public health issue. I declare my interest as a member of the Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, which is just beginning to do its work. We need to take a fresh look at this. In particular, we have to legislate. All these companies are competing with one another, which is one of the reasons why we have this explosion in advertising; even the “whistle to whistle” ban is not going to stop the logos on shirts and the wraparound adverts that are blazoned all the time. We need to legislate to put these companies on an equal footing and protect the vulnerable, especially the young.