The NHS calls for gambling firms to fund addicts’ treatment

Head of mental health in England, Claire Murdoch, said on Wednesday that gambling firms should fund treatment for gaming addicts.

Gambling companies seeing a huge boost to profit during the coronavirus lockdowns have left the NHS to “pick up the pieces” of addiction, according to the health service’s head of mental health in England.

Claire Murdoch, mental health director for NHS England, said it was time for betting firms to be hit with a mandatory tax to help pay for more treatment services.

“After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces,” she said.

“In a year when the NHS has dealt with our biggest challenge yet in Covid-19, the health service’s psychologists and nurses having been treating hundreds of people with severe gambling addictions.

The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS. The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”

Ms Murdoch said 750 people had been referred to specialist clinics for serious gambling addiction since April 2020, but campaigners believe these cases are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

A 2018 report by NHS Digital estimated that there are around 280,000 problem gamblers across England, and the health service wants to open more addiction treatment clinics across the country.

The rise in online gambling during lockdown has meant a huge boost for some of the country’s leading gambling firms. The owner of Ladbrokes and Coral reported profits of £175m in the year to the end of 2020.

The gross gambling yield among the biggest operators increased by 30 per cent during the lockdown between November and December, according to data from the Gambling Commission regulator.

Listed betting companies have seen their stocks turbocharged by the pandemic with Flutter rising a 70% since the start of 2020 for example.

Denise Coates, chief executive of Bet365, was criticised last week for receiving an annual salary of £421m. The High Pay Centre claimed it was “appallingly inefficient for single individuals to hoard wealth in this way.”

Since April 2020, there have been 750 new gambling addicts that have needed specialist clinics, said the report from the Guardian.

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