The decision of UK betting firms to redirect £100 million of funds for addressing problem gambling is now a reason for raising concerns. The decision is proof of the fact that the industry is highly influential on the modes of money expenditure, leading addiction experts and politicians have rung a warning bell.
Last year in July, the Ladbrokes owner GVC, William Hill, Bet365, SkyBet, and Flutter promised the amount, and the step is considered mainly as a response to the pronouncement of compulsory 1% levy on their revenue for supporting addiction education, research, and treatment.
The gambling companies have agreed to channel the amount through AGH. AGH or Action against Gambling Harm is a charitable institution, founded by Lord Chadlington, will now identify appropriate beneficiaries for granting out the amount.
But, a surprising change of heart is seen this month, when the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the industry trade body, declared that instead of AGH, the cash amount would be given to another charity, GambleAware.
Now, experts will send an open letter to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and the cultural minister Oliver Dowden for portraying how this decision of the BCG depicts the importance of a statutory levy.
According to the experts, the present system produces major scopes for the gambling companies for influencing this agenda, which is nothing but an essential reason for concern. The organization that will receive the amount is irrespective of this matter. Still, the announcement of BGC accurately points out the limitations of an entire funding system that enables the industry to control the allocation and availability of necessary funds, meant for tackling the gambling-related harms.
Before a year ago, the industry promised to raise fund, but till now has not done any justice on the materialization process. And now, as in a short notice, it has shown its power and willingness to alter the channel of funding, raises concerns.
A group that consists of addiction experts and over 40 academics has demanded this mandatory levy. They have also demanded a system, where the recognized autonomous organizations like the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation handle and distribute the proceedings.
In words of Dr. Heather Wardle, a member of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, a condition where the industry is controlling the level of funding as well as choosing recipients and the probable time of it, is always unacceptable.
It was expected that the AGH would oversee the £100 million fund, but with the changed circumstances, it seems to have become sightless by industrial pressure.
Last year, in December, a report was published by AGH, where it had been said that five gambling firms requested Lord Chadlington to make an administrative committee that would handle the funds. Besides, they had also committed to adhering to the recommendations of the committee.
The BGC also informed that its members would hand over the money to GambleAware after a thorough discussion with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS).
According to the BGC, when the largest operators requested Lord Chadlington for implementing a review on funding issues, Lord Chadlington himself wanted additional money for transferring to his own body. Though at that stage, they were not eligible for carrying out the research, education, and treatment of problem gambling.
Besides, since the organisation didn’t have the approval for carrying out the RET from the Gambling Commission, BGC could not have funded them for RET.
However, the firm stated, at that time, they asked AGH to perform a “direct, monitor, and evaluate” spending. Still, the charity had plans to distribute the amount without executing research, education, and treatment.
While adhering to a contrary note, Kate Lampard, the GambleAware chairperson, has claimed that the charitable institution holds a strong record as an independent charity commissioning national prevention, besides the treatment services are conducted with evaluation and research.
However, according to political members of both houses, the industry’s clutch over the destination was an alarming matter instead of beneficiaries of funding.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans demanded justification of this decision and asked whether the government knew about this or not. He had submitted a written question regarding this matter on Tuesday.
While portraying a doubt on this funding process, The Labour MP Carolyn Harris, the chairperson of a cross-party group of MPs said, this transferring method of the fund would question the independence and reliability of the research, which would be carried out with this amount.
The DMS spokesperson has asserted that the commitment of spending £100 on research, education, and treatment, has been welcomed by them, and they will monitor the progress of this process for encouraging the broader industry to join the force.