The Betting and Gaming Council has labelled a report suggesting that the economy would be better off if fewer people spent money on gambling as ‘pie in the sky’.

Entitled Double or nothing? Assessing the economic impact of gambling, the report – published by the Social Market Foundation – suggests that the money spent on gambling activities would have a more positive impact if it was transferred to food and retail goods as they have higher ‘economic multipliers’.

“If people were restricted from betting in the regulated industry, they would simply migrate to the growing unlicensed, unsafe black market that employs no one, pays no tax and contributes nothing to UK plc. To think otherwise is, at best, naive,” claimed Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council.

“It’s disappointing but unsurprising that anti-gambling prohibitionists seek to deliberately downplay the economic contribution the industry makes, just because they don’t like the industry. They should stop looking down their noses at the people who enjoy a bet or who work in the industry.”

Other figures in the SMF report, which describes itself as a cross party think tank, which acknowledges anti-betting campaigner Derek Webb amongst its benefactors, suggests that the gambling sector is now a significant part of the UK economy. 

In 2019, the gross value added of the gambling industry was £8bn, up 45 per cent since 2010. Gambling’s share of UK economic output increased from 0.3 per cent to 0.4 per cent, however it directly contributes 0.6 per cent of central government revenues, with about £4.3bn going to the Exchequer.

Following the publication of the report, Scott Corfe, research director at the Social Market Foundation, called for the Treasury to conduct its own analysis: “Sensible reform of gambling regulation could reduce the societal costs of problem gambling and realise economic gains.

“To achieve that, the government should commission an urgent review of the social and economic costs of gambling, commencing in 2021 and concluding in line with the timeframe of the Gambling Act Review. No final decisions on legislative review should be made until the Treasury has conducted an assessment of the economic and social costs of each policy change.”