Duncan Stephenson, Chair of the GHA and Deputy Chief Executive of RSPH, said:
“For the last 15 years the public has been at the mercy of a gambling industry which has taken advantage of sluggish and inadequate regulation. We have seen the devastating effects of this on lives lost and ruined, with gambling companies shamelessly exploiting the young and vulnerable, making obscene amounts of money at the expense of some of our most deprived communities and polluting everyday activities from football matches to video games.
This review of the Gambling Act is long overdue and it is time to put the often spoken about “public health approach” into practice. Just as we have rightly taken steps to ramp up the regulation of other harmful products such as tobacco and junk food, we now need to do the same with gambling. So many lives have been destroyed by the wild-west which exists, particularly in online and mobile gambling, and we need laws that protect our people from this.”
The GHA, a coalition of 50 organisations and individuals advocating for a public health approach to reducing gambling harms, is calling for:
- Better protection for the young and vulnerable, such as a cap on stakes and speed limits;
- De-normalising gambling and reducing exposure to it by banning all forms of gambling advertising and sponsorship in sports;
- Equivalent measures to be put in place between the online and offline world, such as classing video game loot boxes as a form of gambling;
- Investment in research, education and treatment, funded by a statutory 1% industry levy.
A key objective of the Act is to protect children and vulnerable people from gambling harms, yet gambling-related harm continues to plague a significant proportion of the population. The most recent research estimated that 3% of the adult population in Britain are problem gamblers, who are 15 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or take their own life. Additionally, over one third (37%) of 11 to 16 year olds in England and Scotland have gambled in the last year. Evidently the current Gambling Act is failing to provide effective protection.