The head of the National Health Service has called for betting companies to pay a compulsory levy to help fund a network of problem gambling clinics all over the UK.
Simon Stevens becomes the most recent figure involved in the health sector to ask the government to implement a new tax on betting licensees, saying that they should be the ones to pick up the costs of treating the social and economic issues associated with problem gambling, rather than the tax payer.
His call came at the same time that health networks in the UK are planning the launch of a new initiative that will focus on problem gambling in the 13 to 25 age bracket. Later this year, a National Problem Gambling Clinic will open in Sunderland, providing support for younger victims of gambling addiction. It will be one of fourteen such clinics being rolled out over the UK, which have the aim of highlighting and treating gambling addiction and problem gambling young people.
In his remarks, aimed at leaders of the gambling industry, Stevens criticised them for the low level of their spending on addiction treatment, which stands at around £10 million, contrasting that figure with the £1.5 billion that the gambling industry spends on advertising in the UK.
Stevens also highlighted NHS concerns that more than 450,000 youngsters in the 11 to 16 age group bracket are regular gamblers and stated that underage gambling addiction had increased fourfold over the last two years, with around 55,000 young people now considered gambling addicts.
Last week, the leaders of a number of UK gambling firms wrote to the UK Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright, with a commitment to a voluntary contribution of 1 percent of revenue to fund treatment and research on gambling addiction, and the industry trade body, the Remote Gambling Association, has also says that it will support the NHS moves to bolster treatment for gambling addicts.