Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, Spokesperson on Behavioural Addictions for the RCPsyc, responded to the Government’s White Paper on gambling reform, published today.
The Government has today published a White Paper on gambling reform which includes proposed measures to reduce gambling harm. The key proposals, which are subject to further consultation, include:
- a statutory levy paid by operators to fund research, education and treatment of gambling harms
- stronger affordability checks and new stake limits for online slots
- independent ombudsman to adjudicate and resolve consumer complaints.
Responding formally to the publication of the White Paper, Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, Spokesperson on Behavioural Addictions for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:
“While the White Paper rightly recognises gambling harm as a serious public health issue, it could and should have done more to reflect that reality. In my clinic, I treat hundreds of men and women each year who have lost everything to addictive gambling through no fault of their own – their job, their home, their partner and friends.
“Today’s smartphones and other digital platforms make gambling easier than ever, significantly increasing the risk of developing a gambling disorder – a serious mental illness, associated with significant depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. It is estimated that hundreds of suicides each year are linked to gambling harm and that is why it must not be left untreated.
“While the publication of the Government’s White Paper is a step in the right direction, the scale and pace of the proposed changes are disappointing and represent a significant missed opportunity to fully tackle the harms associated with gambling.
“The proposal to impose a statutory levy on industry, to ensure people can receive treatment for gambling addiction when they need it is the correct approach. The NHS is on course to treat record numbers of patients this year for gambling addiction, but tens of thousands more urgently need professional help.
“There is also a pressing need for independent research to better understand the prevalence and impact of problem gambling across the UK, and to identify the most effective measures to prevent gambling harm among different groups. This is why we strongly support the proposal to fund independent research into gambling harm.
“The appointment of a new ombudsman for gambling is an important step. Stronger regulation is urgently needed. People who have been exposed to harmful gambling products should be supported in their efforts to recover their losses and seek justice.
“We are disappointed there are no proposals to limit gambling advertising, sponsorships and loot boxes targeting children. Like alcohol and tobacco, there is a very strong case for prohibiting or severely limiting gambling advertising and sponsorship on public health grounds. Everyone should be able to live in an environment that is free from gamification and advertising, particularly children.
“Not everyone who gambles will develop a gambling disorder of course but some will. The proposal to make it easier to establish casinos is ill-judged. We absolutely understand and accept that gambling harm is a public mental health issue, and therefore there is no case for making it easier for people to gamble.
“The College will seek to influence a strengthening of the proposals in this White Paper as it progresses through the legislative process.”