New strategy to reduce gambling harm receives cautious welcome from Christian campaigners

Online gambling is fuelling an epidemic.Unsplash

Christian advocacy group CARE has welcomed plans to tackle the harm caused by gambling but says the Government still needs to do more.

The Gambling Commission launched its new three-year nationwide strategy to reduce gambling harms on Thursday. 

It is the first time that health bodies, charities, regulators and businesses will work together in a joined up effort to address problem gambling. 

The strategy will take a two-pronged approach to improve prevention and education about the dangers of gambling on the one hand, while also working to provide "truly national treatment and support options". 

At present, there is only a single specialist gambling addiction clinic in the country, based in London. 

William Moyes, chairman of the Gambling Commission, said: "Everyone has a role to play to combat gambling harms and I'm delighted that the health sector, charities and businesses are showing their commitment to get behind the strategy and make it a success.

"We all need to better understand the harms that can be caused by gambling, moving away from simply counting problem gamblers and instead build a greater understanding of the harms experienced. Over the lifetime of the strategy we will better understand the full range of harms and how to protect against them." 

Minister for Sport and Civil Society Mims Davies said it was important that the Gambling Commission keep pace with the technological changes that have revolutionised the way people gamble, making it easier than ever to access.

"Protecting people from harm should be at the heart of every gambling business. Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time," she said. 

Responding to the strategy, James Mildred, spokesman for Christian advocacy group CARE, told Christian Today that the gambling industry "needs to get its house in order". 

He welcomed the strategy, including its focus on the harm caused by online gambling as well as the recognition of help available through GAMSTOP, a self-exclusion mechanism that gamblers can use to put controls in place. 

He said: "While for some, gambling is harmless fun, for a significant minority it causes devastation in their lives and in the lives of their families."

He continued: "With smartphones more affordable than ever, gambling is available anytime, anywhere and the last major piece of gambling legislation - the 2005 Gambling Act - was over a decade ago.

"As for the levy on gambling firms, we're delighted the new strategy proposes introducing a new mandatory levy but it completely baffling why the sports minister seems to think the current voluntary system is working. Where is her evidence for this?

"Richard Graham MP pointed out in his speech yesterday that the gambling industry makes £14 billion in gross profits, as well as £200 million in advertising revenue, but only contributes £9 million towards funding research and addiction support services.

"That's just 0.06% of its gross profits and given there is still only one specialist gambling addiction clinic in London, yet 2 million people experience some sort of gambling-related harm and 340,000 are deemed problem gamblers, so clearly this is clearly a major issue.

"A mandatory levy is the only way to ensure more money is raised to protect vulnerable problem gamblers."