Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Gaming Industry Would Face Addiction Levy Under U.K. Labour Plan

  • Voluntary donations failing to bring enough cash, party says
  • Deputy leader Watson accuses companies of targeting vulnerable

Gambling companies would face a compulsory levy to pay for treatment of addicts under a plan being considered by the U.K.’s opposition Labour Party.

Firms are failing to support a system requesting voluntary contributions of 0.1 percent of profits and should be coerced into helping people whose betting is out of control, Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the party, will tell delegates at its annual conference in Brighton, southern England, on Tuesday.

“Gambling addiction is an illness and it’s about time it was taken seriously,” Watson will say, according to extracts of a speech released by his office. A review of policy “will assess the feasibility of making the gambling industry pay a compulsory levy to fund National Health Service treatment and help lift problem gamblers out of the destructive cycle of addiction.”

More than 2 million people are problem gamblers or at risk of addiction, the party said, citing data from the Gambling Commission. It accused companies of targeting children and young people and failing to help online users who try to stop when their gambling gets out of control.

The 0.1 percent contribution suggested for education and treatment under the GambleAware program should bring in 13.8 million pounds ($19 million) a year, the party said, but in the year ending September 2016 firms only contributed 7.6 million pounds.

“Gambling companies are even harvesting data to deliberately target low-income gamblers and people who have given up gambling. More than half of companies profit from ‘risk’ gamblers,” Watson will say. “This has to stop. Gambling companies must be held to account for this abuse of trust and power.”

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