Stuart Andrew
Image: UK Parliament

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew has stated that the upcoming statutory levy to be introduced in the UK gambling industry must cause “no disruption” on services supporting people with gambling problems.

A statutory levy was proposed in the white paper when it was published in April, to raise £100m for gambling research, education and treatment across England, Scotland and Wales. It proposes a one per cent fee on gross gambling yield for online operators, while traditional betting shops and casinos will pay a proposed fee of around 0.4 per cent.

The UK Gambling Commission will distribute funding to the NHS, which will take the principal role of ‘main commissioner of treatment‘ with the support of UK Research and Innovation, coordinating research and innovation funding under the strategic direction of the government.

It is the distribution of levy funds that has gambling support charities concerned that an NHS-led levy could impact how they support those who are suffering from gambling harm.

Speaking at the recent GambleAware Annual Conference, Andrew noted that he is “confident” that the levy will create “meaningful opportunities”, but the transition must be performed smoothly by addressing two areas – keeping funding flowing and getting the timing right.

The Gambling Minister said: “Firstly: Keeping funding flowing. We have to guarantee that funding remains secure and accessible through the existing system to deliver the important work that many of you are directly involved in on the frontline. It is absolutely crucial for me that there is no disruption to services in the interim. 

“Secondly: Getting the timing right. We need to manage the introduction of the levy and the build-up to full funding so that there is sufficient time to get the right infrastructure, processes and relationships in place. 

“Together, this will support a smooth transition to the new system.”

In August, GambleAware received around £33m from the UKGC to form a stabilisation fund to help make the transition to a statutory levy as smooth as possible, making sure organisations that rely on funding streams to operate still receive the support they need.

A consultation period for the levy was also opened by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport back in October and it is scheduled to close next week on December 14.

Andrew continued: “Since the launch of the consultation, I have been engaging widely with stakeholders across the sector on these issues and will continue to do so – my message to you is that my door will always be open.

“I want to make clear today that I have received a commitment from the industry to maintain funding until the levy is in force. My department and I are working at pace to see that commitment communicated in no uncertain terms to the sector.”

The Gambling Minister added that in terms of the transition, it is vital that time is taken to deliver the levy correctly and then introduce it quickly to Parliament so the foundations are in place for organisations and their support systems to “flourish”.

Andrew concluded: “We want a system which has no ‘wrong door’ for people seeking help, where the referral pathways are right and where learning is constantly being shared. I hope you will agree that this is an important objective for the future of an effective system of research, prevention and treatment of gambling-related harms.”