A House of Lords report into the dangers of gambling estimates that around two million people are impacted.
‘Gambling Harm: Time for Action’ states that around a third of a million adults are addicted to gambling, and an additional 55,000 children. These addicts are also negatively affecting others around them through crime, domestic violence, job losses and family breakdown.
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, led by former BBC Chairman Lord Grade, urged the Government to impose strict curbs on the industry.
The report also revealed that, on average, one problem gambler commits suicide every day, yet gambling addiction gets very little media attention when compared with alcohol or drugs.
The Peers pointed out that the gambling industry is keen on attracting and retaining customers, spending £1.5 billion on advertising last year.
They also noted that 60 per cent of its online profits come from the five per cent who are already problem gamblers, or who are at risk of becoming so.
Gambling has proliferated since the law was liberalised following the passing of the Gambling Act 2005, the Peers said, while the “almost universal adoption of the smart phone and other devices” has made matters worse.
This advancement of technology means bets can be placed “whenever and wherever the gambler wanted, totally unsupervised”.
Writing in The Times, Lord Grade called on the Government to impose a levy on the industry to combat gambling addiction, saying: “This is a health problem, where the NHS should be at the forefront.
“Research, education and treatment are expensive, but can be and should be paid for from the industry’s profits.”
Lord Grade added that the Government had dragged its feet on the issue for too long, saying: “Only in response to pressure from MPs, the public, and the media, is any action being taken to deal with the harm caused by problem gambling.
“At last, all main political parties are promising action, notably in their most recent election manifestos. The committee believes that this is the time for action.”
The Peers made 50 recommendations in the report, including raising the minimum age for online gambling and the National Lottery to 18, banning gambling firms from advertising on sports kits and in grounds, and strengthening affordability checks.