UK Trade Group Backs Likely Statutory Levy

April 4, 2023
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UK trade group the Betting and Gaming Council has said it welcomes the idea of a mandatory levy to fund research, education and treatment services as long as it “is independent and tiered to protect land-based operators”.

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UK trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has said it welcomes the idea of a mandatory levy to fund research, education and treatment (RET) services as long as it “is independent and tiered to protect land-based operators”.

The BGC released a new statement on Monday (April 3) saying it had previously proposed that any RET contributions should be mandatory, against the backdrop of numerous reports claiming a statutory levy will be included in the much-delayed gambling white paper.

However, the trade group believes there should be a “sliding scale and smaller percentage contributions from land-based gambling businesses who have disproportionately higher fixed costs like more premises and staff”.

According to the BGC, industry analysis suggests a new blanket 1 percent statutory levy for land-based operators would be the equivalent of between a 10 and 15 percent hit on post-tax profits because of the fixed costs which do not equally apply to online operators.

In the BGC’s statement, CEO Michael Dugher said he is “relaxed” about a statutory levy given that members' “money is already on the table” and “is already allocated independently of the industry”.

“Our largest members already pay 1 percent to fund RET services via a wholly independent system. For the BGC and our members, the priority is ensuring the money reaches charities doing exceptional work and funds truly independent, evidence-led research. The mechanism used to generate those funds is an irrelevance by comparison,” Dugher said.

Matt Gaskell, the clinical lead and consultant psychologist for the National Health Service (NHS) Northern Gambling Service, responded to the BGC’s statement by claiming it reflected the need for a statutory levy, as a central purpose of it is to end industry influence over where funding goes.

“It’s interesting to see they’re already trying to influence how it is organised before it has even been announced. An independent levy board will decide,” Gaskell said.

BGC CEO Dugher returned the jab on social media, pointing to people in the NHS that previously stated they would not take gambling industry money and adding that it is “welcome that they now appear willing to do so”.

“What’s important is that the money goes to helping the tiny minority of people who need it, not wasted on the cottage industry of anti-gambling prohibitionists, masquerading their biased work as research,” Dugher said.

The BGC’s announcement was questioned by some gambling campaigners, who pointed out that it has pushed against the idea of a statutory levy over the past few years.

Speaking at the BGC’s annual general meeting (AGM) in London on January 26, members questioned if the statutory levy would be introduced, leading BGC chair Brigid Simmonds to say critics of the industry that want a new tax “would not raise any extra funds for charity but would instead dismantle existing charity funds”.

Prominent British gambling campaigner Matt Zarb-Cousin of Gamban and Clean Up Gambling asked the BGC on social media: “What’s changed, the way the wind’s blowing? Anyway, thanks for resisting and opposing this reform until the point it’s likely to be in the White Paper. It’s made our job more difficult for no reason. And you’re the ones who claim to be raising standards.”

During a discussion held by the Labour Campaign for Gambling Reform in Westminster on March 22, gambling campaigner and Labour MP Carolyn Harris said: “I think there will be a statutory levy, I'm getting the mood music that says yes. That would be a massive result. I may even retire from gambling if I get that.”

In the same meeting, Harris said the “jury is out” regarding introducing online stake limits in line with the land-based industry and that it is unlikely there will be a complete advertising ban.

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