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Gambling firms will never take responsibility for addiction

Posted on Apr 14, 2021

Your report (Tax gambling firms to fund addiction treatment, says NHS director, 7 April) is deja vu and depressing in equal measure. From 2004 to 2006, I was the CEO of the then Responsibility in Gambling Trust, which at the time was the body responsible for persuading the gambling industry to voluntarily fund treatment, education and research into problem gambling.

The task was hopeless, as the industry worked to undermine all the evidence and deny their responsibility, blocking use of their funding for education and research into how gambling causes addiction.

In the face of a complete refusal to adequately fund the sector, and because of the way in which the money they did give was allocated, I left – but not before costing in detail how much they should provide to pay for the necessary level of treatment, UK-wide – a set of costings that was ignored.

Fifteen years on, nothing has changed, but waiting for their voluntary sense of responsibility to kick in at the right level will take much longer. Firms must be taxed. But it is also up to the government to acknowledge that gambling addiction is the Cinderella of addictions, and needs government funding as much as smoking and alcohol dependency.
Robin Burgess

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