GambleAware: Statutory Levy changes must prioritise National Strategy for Harm Prevention

GambleAware has stated that the government must prioritise the development of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Treatment of gambling harms in its ongoing review of gambling laws and duties.

The statement was made by GambleAware in its response to the Statutory Levy consultation as proposed by the Gambling Review’s White Paper, authored by CEO Zoë Osmond.

Under consultation, GambleAware is set to be replaced by the NHS and UK Research and Innovation as the chief commissioner of funding for Research, Education, and Treatment (RET) projects and organisations.

As outlined in the White Paper, the government aims to raise £100m per year by 2027 for gambling research, education, and treatment (RET) across England, Scotland, and Wales, proposing a 1% fee on gross gambling yield for online operators, with land-based betting shops and casinos paying around 0.4%.

GambleAware reiterated its support for the introduction of a statutory levy needed to bring clarity in funding and support long-term planning in the sector, helping to move beyond debates about independence and funding.

Osmond stated: “Following years of uncertainty, the levy will provide clarity of funding for the gambling harms sector, support long-term planning, and prevent duplication of work. 

“We hope this means we can finally move on from the unhelpful distraction of debates about independence and funding, to now focus on working collaboratively to ensure the best system is in place to protect people from harm.”

Whilst the levy has the potential to transform how gambling harm prevention and treatment is administered, GambleAware cites concerns that the proposed approach may not be effective and could impact overall service provisions.

A major concern is that the government must enhance the development of a National Strategy for the Prevention and Treatment of Gambling Harms, which is currently missing from the proposals.

GambleAware endorses adopting a public health strategy “as the most effective and cost-efficient way of addressing societal issues like gambling harms”.

On current proposals, GambleAware cited its “preference would be to have a single Prevention and Treatment Commissioner to ensure increased awareness of the issue and equal accessibility of services across England, Scotland, and Wales”. 

The government has yet to select a commissioner on matters related to gambling harm prevention and intervention.

In its role as the current RET commissioner, GambleAware highlighted the importance of retaining the third sector’s expertise in prevention and treatment to reduce the strain on NHS services.

In view of changes, GambleAware will use its strategic commissioning skills to support the new prevention commissioning body and collaborate with various stakeholders for an effective transition.

Further concerns were raised when GambleAware warned the government that existing definitions of treatment and prevention in the consultation overlooked the distinct stages of prevention (primary, secondary, and tertiary approaches) needed for effective treatment and care of harms.

Key preventive measures such as the National Gambling Helpline, categorised as Tier 1 and Tier 2 prevention, are slated to be managed by the NHS in its role as ‘Treatment Commissioner’. 

GambleAware suggested that both Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions, including the Helpline, be co-commissioned and that the execution of national public awareness and early digital interventions be assigned to the Prevention Commissioner, enhancing issue awareness and service accessibility throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.

Critical to the development of a National Strategy, Osmond emphasised the critical role of “a range of key stakeholders from primary care, the health and social care sector, local authorities, the criminal justice system, and, most importantly, people with lived experience of gambling harm. Their expertise must be sought, and their voices heard.”

Though GambleAware supports the White Paper’s RET proposals, the government must ensure a stable transition to the new system, with a focus on maintaining funding and preventing disruption to existing support and treatment services.

Osmond concluded: “Leaning on the established expertise of the third sector will be critical, and clarity on funding for both GambleAware and the wider sector is urgently needed to prevent any disruption to the existing support and treatment services, which help hundreds of people every day.

“We hope these issues will be addressed so that the transformational potential of the levy can be realised, and we can truly secure a society free from gambling harms.”