BeGambleAware, administered and funded by an independent charity GambleAware, whose mission is to keep people safe from gambling harms, has put forward its case for its voluntary funding by gambling companies to be made mandatory.
Providing evidence for the Review of the Gambling Act 2005, it has also questioned ‘whether the Gambling Commission, as a business regulator, is best placed to commission the range of prevention and treatment services that are necessary to keep people safe from gambling harms.’
Under the current arrangements in place for the regulation of the gambling industry, GambleAware is funded exclusively by the gambling industry via a voluntary donation system. The system requires operators licensed in Britain to donate funds to support research, prevention, and treatment of gambling harms. However, there is no stipulation as to how much ought to be donated and on January 1 2020 the Gambling Commission published a list of several organisations to which operators may direct their annual financial contributions.
In the 12 months to March 31 2020, GambleAware received £15.6m in voluntary donations as compared to £11m in the previous year. In June 2020, the Betting and Gaming Council, on behalf of the four largest gambling operators in Great Britain, pledged £100m to GambleAware over the four years to 2024.
GambleAware stated: “The voluntary nature of the current arrangements results inevitably in uncertainty of funding year to year and to significant variations in cash flow within the year. This unpredictable funding model represents a significant challenge given that a key function of GambleAware as a commissioning body is to provide assurance to funded services about recurrent income streams so that expert clinical teams can be established and sustained to provide treatment and support for those who need help.
“Trustees have established a robust, independent, and accountable system of governance processes and procedures to ensure the gambling industry has no influence over the charity’s commissioning decisions. However, the voluntary nature of the current funding arrangements permits the industry to make deliberate choices about where its funding is directed, which may not always be in the best interests of pursuing a coherent and coordinated whole systems approach to preventing gambling harms. It is for these reasons that GambleAware continues to advocate for a mandatory levy to fund research, prevention, and treatment services.”
Historically, the public health grant payable to local authorities in England by Public Health England has been ring-fenced for use on public health functions including having regard to the need to improve the take up of, and outcomes from, its drug and alcohol misuse treatment services. Notably it has not specified gambling treatment services.20 The public health grant allocation to local authorities in England for 2020/21 totalled £3.3bn.21
Trustees welcome the proposals set out in the Government’s recent White Paper on Health and Care: “The NHS and local authorities will be given a duty to collaborate with each other. We will also bring forward measures for statutory integrated care systems (ICSs). These will be comprised of an ICS Health and Care Partnership, bringing together the NHS, local government and partners, and an ICS NHS Body… A key responsibility for these systems will be to support place-based joint working between the NHS, local government, community health services, and other partners such as the voluntary and community sector.” 22 Improving the uptake and outcomes from gambling treatment services could be specifically identified alongside improving drug and alcohol misuse treatment services in the work of future ICSs.