SNP MP: Damage Gambling Firms Cause “Tantamount to Gross Negligence”

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Damage to gamblers is “tantamount to gross negligence,” says a Scottish National Party MP.

30-second summary

  • 250-620 deaths each year in the UK are linked to gambling
  • Scottish MP calls for gambling companies to take action against problem gambling
  • £140m could be brought in each year with 1% statutory levy aimed at gambling companies

A Scottish National Party MP has written an article in the press, in which he says that the damage being done to gamblers by gambling companies is “tantamount to gross negligence.”

Damage done to gamblers

Ronnie Cowan, MP for Inverclyde and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fixed odds betting terminals, wrote his article in Politics Home ahead of his debate today on gambling-related harm at Westminister Hall.

Talking about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, Cowan stated that people know the harm these things can cause; however, when it becomes a matter of gambling the harm involved isn’t always so obvious.

He wrote: “Debt incurred from gambling creates instability, insecurity and can lead to bankruptcy and in the extreme, result in criminal activities. Relationships can be disrupted and often lead to emotional and social isolation. This can lead to mistrust and erodes cohesive relationships.”

Additionally, he noted that suicide can play a role in gambling-related stress. Citing figures from Gambling with Lives, Cowan said that between 4% and 11% of suicides are linked to gambling. This is the equivalent of around 250-620 deaths each year in the UK.

He also said that while the gambling industry pays a voluntary levy, which raises between £10-14m ($13-18m) each year, that goes towards supporting problem gamblers, the amount brought in varies. This means it’s hard to properly budget how the money is used.

“A statutory levy of 1% would guarantee £140m a year and that sort of money, in the right hands, could do some good,” he added.

In his opinion, the harm that gambling companies are producing on gamblers is “tantamount to gross negligence.”

He further noted that now is the time for gambling companies to stop causing damage to people rather than asking gamblers to gamble responsibly.

He added: “To make it perfectly blunt, the gambling companies have stacked the odds against the punters and the damage that is being done needs to be redressed.”

More needs to be done

The topic of gambling and the problems associated with it has long been documented around the world.

However, while it remains a lucrative industry, jurisdictions and companies are keen to implement new measures that can tackle the issue.

For instance, earlier this week it was reported that casinos in Vancouver could be turning to AI and loyalty programs to target problem gambling. Ian Proctor, CEO of Sky Betting & Gaming, has also given his view that technology can aid the issue. Last October, he noted that technology should be used by the gambling industry to protect people from spending more than they can afford.

Elsewhere, stricter measures on gambling advertising are increasing. The UK, for example, has introduced a whistle-to-whistle ban during live sporting events, following an increase in the amount of criticism relating to gambling-related advertising during events.

However, while the UK is saying no to gambling advertising, America’s National Football League (NFL) has taken a different turn. Last September, it was reported that the NFL was permitting its teams to obtain gambling sponsors. The NFL also said, at the time, that it would be allowing certain gambling ads during the season.

More clearly needs to be done to tackle the issue of problem gambling, with one case already seeing problem gambling victims suing bookmakers for £1.5m ($1.9m). According to the report, the suit, reported on in December, noted that money that was stolen from the plaintiff was spent at Paddy Power Betfair and William Hill.

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