This briefing is a response to the Government’s deregulation of Britain’s gambling industry. The Gambling Bill 2005 is unprecedented in both its scope and aim of encouraging and facilitating gambling. Yet the evidence overwhelmingly shows the Bill will lead to a massive increase in problem gambling.
Problem gambling cost England around £1.2 billion last year, a new report has revealed.
Landmark research from Public Health England (PHE) analysed the wide-ranging financial harms, including debt, family breakdown, the burden on the NHS and unemployment. It also examined the costs incurred by the police from gambling-related crime.
The report concluded that there is a clear link between gambling and mental health problems, including alcohol abuse, depression and suicide.
PHE found the greatest financial cost to society was the negative impact gambling had on mental and physical health, which it estimates costs England £961m anually.
The evidence is clear – harmful gambling is a public health issue and needs addressing on many fronts
The report estimated that gambling-related crime costs the taxpayer £162.5m annually, while the bill for homelessness brought about by problem gambling came to £62.8m.
Men were more likely to be problem gamblers than women, and the other groups deemed most at risk of gambling-related harm were heavy drinkers and those with mental health issues.
‘Public health issue’
Rosanna O’Connor, PHE’s Director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco and Justice, said the paper proved the harmful impact of gambling on society.
She said: “The evidence is clear – harmful gambling is a public health issue and needs addressing on many fronts”.
O’Connor added that there was a need to place an “emphasis on preventing these harms from occurring as well as with help readily accessible for those directly and indirectly affected by the wide ranging and long lasting negative impacts of gambling”.
The Government is currently considering a reform of gambling legislation, which could see the largest changes to the running of the industry since 2005.
When the Gambling Act 2005 was being considered by Parliament, The Christian Institute published ‘Gambling with our future’, which warned that the proposed liberalisation of gambling laws would lead to an increase in problem gambling.