Underage gambling is growing problem
Problem gambling is getting more and more attention. In the United Kingdom, the number of underage people placing bets has never been higher. Worrying figures show that as many as 55,000 children in the region struggle with problem gambling.
These children are easily influenced by gambling advertising, which normalizes the activity in their heads. According to figures from the Gambling Commission, 450,000 children are regularly gambling—more than those who have smoked, drunk alcohol, and taken drugs.
The gambling industry spends more than £1.5bn ($1.9bn) annually on advertising and marketing campaigns. A much smaller amount is spent to treat gambling addiction. Hundreds of thousands of adults in the region have a problem and millions more are at risk.
NHS has 14 clinics planned
The NHS wants to be proactive by helping problem gamblers from a younger age before their problems can spiral out of control. The new clinic for young people is part of an overarching NHS plan. At the moment, there is only one dedicated treatment center for problem gamblers, in Leeds, and another is coming soon in London.
As part of this strategy, clinics and other face-to-face services will open across the region. There are 14 such clinics in the works, and the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London will focus on young people from 13 to 25 years of age.
The chief executive of the National Health Service, Simon Stevens, said: “This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people. The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed.”
Fighting back against operators
Authorities are taking a number of measures to combat problem gambling. The NHS spends about £1.2bn ($1.5bn) a year to treat gambling addiction. GambleAware is one of the leading treatment charities but they have a significant shortfall in funding.
The charity is supposed to get a voluntary levy of 0.1% of revenues from all gambling operators each year. However, instead of getting the £14.4m ($18.3m) due in the latest period, less than £10m ($12.7m) came in. Some companies gave as little as £1 ($1.27).
Therefore, a lot of groups are calling for a mandatory levy on companies. The UK Gambling Commission estimates that GambleAware needs between £21.5m ($27.4m) and £67m ($85m) a year to properly carry out their services.
A number of leading operators have come out and said that they will increase the size of the voluntary levy. Bet365, SkyBet, Paddy Power Betfair, Coral Ladbrokes, and William Hill, representing, about half of the market in the UK, will pay 1% of their revenues for the next five years to GambleAware. That would amount to a total of about £100m ($127.4m) going to the charity.
Other regulatory moves have been made to combat problem gambling. The maximum allowable stake on fixed odds betting terminals was slashed from £100 ($127) to £2 ($2.55). These machines are very addictive and have caused some problem gamblers to pile up massive debts.
Advertising by gambling companies has been banned during live televised sporting events and there are plans to further curtail gambling advertising. Plans include banning gambling companies from being kit sponsors of teams and not allowing them to advertise on boards around soccer pitches.