National Health Service Calls for Addiction Help in the UK
The NHS says that gambling addiction numbers are up and that operators need to provide more funds for services.
The National Health Service (NHS) of the UK is calling for gambling firms to provide more financial assistance for addiction services in the country. The NHS says that operators have profited during the pandemic and health services have been left to handle the addiction side of the industry. The group feels that the industry should have a compulsory levy that is used to fund treatment services.
Provide Funds for Assistance
The National Mental Health Director for NHS England is Claire Murdoch. She says the voluntary system that lets the industry determine how much it contributes to gambling addiction is rubbish and should be changed.
The call for more financial assistance comes at a time when the government is reviewing the gambling laws. Each year, the country earns billions in revenues, while hundreds of people are referred to clinics for treatment due to serious addiction.
Since April 2020, the NHS has seen 750 people refereed to special clinics for help. The NHS plans to open more gambling clinics in the country as they feel this number is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reaching out to those who need help with a gambling addiction.
Because the country has been subject to several lockdowns back-to-back due to the pandemic, it has triggered a large increase in spending regarding online casino games and slots. Companies like Ladbrokes Coral and Paddy Power have profited during this time.
Murdoch is critical of these gaming firms as she says they are luring bettors in with incentives like free bets and VIP treatment. The industry’s current treatment for gambling addiction services is minimal and she feels they need to do more.
She stated further that the gambling industry seems to be more focused on turning a profit at the expense of the people’s health instead of helping and the NHS has to pick up the pieces left behind. The NHS has had to deal with COVID-19 in the past year along with treat hundreds of new patients due to gambling addiction.
Will the Government Require Such a Levy?
The NHS feels the gambling industry should take more responsibility, but will the government step up and require a new levy for gambling addiction treatment? Studies have shown that around 300,000 to over one million people are gambling addicts in Great Britain alone. However, a small 3% of that number seek help from a specialist.
Many times, players rely on the helplines funded by the industry and do not seek professional treatment in a one-on-one setting. Addiction experts, and MPs on both sides of the house, as well as the Gambling Commission, want to see a mandatory levy instituted.
With a mandatory levy, the gap in funding would be closed and more people could receive help. Labour’s Carolyn Harris is currently chairing a cross-party group that is reviewing gambling harm. Harris stated recently that treatment and support services that are available for people who have a gambling addiction in the country is underfunded. Harris does not feel that the industry should be able to decide when and how much is paid.
Currently, the voluntary system raises around £10 million to £15 million annually. Some operators are only providing £1 million just to be placed on the list of donors. Most of the funding goes to GamCare and more is needed to help improve the health of those who have a gambling addiction.
We shall see if the NHS’s calls are heard and if the government will decide to provide some type of assistance to ensure that those who need help with addiction are given access to quality services.