Labour considering compulsory problem gambling levy

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Labour party is considering proposals that would force UK bookmakers to pay a levy to help treat problem gamblers if it wins the next election.

Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson, speaking at the party’s annual conference in Brighton, said that the money would be used for NHS treatment aimed at ending the “destructive cycle of addiction”.

At present, problem gambling charity GambleAware have asked the gambling industry to donate 0.1% of gross gaming yield to fund education, prevention and treatment services. However, Watson added: "At the moment, the industry is asked to make voluntary contributions of 0.1% of profits - but it doesn't."

Labour have said that gambling firms have contributed just £7.6m to problem gambling causes in the UK rather than the potential £13.8m which could be collected if the donations were compulsory.

Watson went on to state that "Some gambling companies, driven by greed, are deliberately targeting our poorest communities even as hundreds of thousands of lives are ruined by addiction.”

Additional proposals include a crackdown on highly controversial fixed-odds betting terminals which would reduce the maximum stake from £100 to just £2 and a ban on bookmakers sponsoring football teams.

In an interview with the Independent Newspaper, a spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers said it backed an "evidence-based approach to helping problem gambling in the UK and would support Mr Watson's idea of a review, if it facilitated this".

The spokesperson added: "We also would not oppose an appropriate, compulsory levy on the gambling industry to fund problem gambling treatment, as we have long argued that the gambling industry needs to work together to reduce the number of problem gamblers and address the fact that most problem gamblers move between different forms of gambling."

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