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UK government launches consultation on proposed RET gambling levy

| By Robert Fletcher
The UK government has launched a consultation on plans to introduce a new, mandatory gambling levy aimed at raising additional funds for research, education and treatment (RET) for gambling harms.
Gambling yield Q4 Britain

Proposed as one of a host of measures in the Gambling Act white paper, the government says the levy would raise an estimated £100.0m (€115.5m/$121.7m) per year. 

The mandatory statutory levy would be paid by operators to the Gambling Commission. The aim of this is to ensure that all licensed operators in the UK pay their fair share. The current voluntary levy system allows operators to pay whatever they want.

As such, the new levy would be set as a 1% fee on gross gambling yield for online gambling operators. Traditional betting shops and casinos will pay a proposed fee of around 0.4%.

The consultation is now live and runs through to 14 December.

“We are taking the next step in our plan to protect those most at risk of gambling harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and research,” culture secretary Lucy Frazer said.

“All gambling operators will be required to pay their fair share. This consultation is an opportunity for the industry, clinicians, those who have experienced gambling harm and the wider public to have their say on how the proposed gambling operator levy should work. 

“The introduction of this levy will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to gamble safely.”

Levy will allow for substantial new investment in NHS

Should the levy come into effect, the gambling industry will no longer have a say over how money is spent. Instead, the Gambling Commission will distribute funding directly to the NHS and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The latter coordinates research and innovation funding, under the strategic direction of government.

The government says the new funding will deliver substantial new investment for the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales. It adds that this will increase access to treatment and support for those experiencing gambling-related harm. 

In addition, the government says it will help develop a national approach to prevention. It will also fund independent, high-quality research to inform policy and practice.

“We know that gambling addiction can devastate lives, which is why we are working quickly to implement our bold plans for reform,” gambling minister Stuart Andrew said.

“This consultation brings us a step closer to being able to provide £100.0m of new funding for research, prevention and treatment. This includes ring-fenced investment for the NHS to help gambling addicts.

“Gambling firms should always pay their fair share. This new statutory levy will ensure that they are legally required to do just that.”

New gambling addiction clinics to open

In July this year, the NHS announced seven new gambling addiction clinics will open across England. These are in addition to the seven clinics already in operation in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford. An additional national clinic, which treats gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people, is also open in London.

“Harmful gambling can affect people’s savings, ruin relationships and devastate people’s lives and health,” added health minister Neil O’Brien. “Gambling companies should pay their fair share towards the costs of treatment services, but we want to hear from as many people as possible about how the new statutory levy should work.

“We continue working to support those affected by gambling harms. Twelve of the planned fifteen NHS gambling addictions clinics have now opened across the country providing vital support services for thousands of people experiencing gambling-related harms as well as their loved ones. The remaining three are expected to open by the end of the year.”

BGC supports mandatory levy plans

UK industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has already come out in support of the plans. However, it calls for the levy to go further and apply to all operators, including the National Lottery.

“We believe it should apply to all operators including the National Lottery, without affecting good causes, who are not immune to having problem gamblers gamble with their products like scratch cards and instant win games,” the BGC said.

“It must also be applied on a sliding scale, with smaller percentage contributions from land-based operators, including independent betting shops on our high streets that have struggled to recover after the pandemic and incur disproportionately higher fixed costs.

“There must also be adequate oversight to ensure levy funds are only distributed to charities and organisations delivering genuine RET services to ensure long-term, sustainable funding – including protecting existing third sector providers who are already doing vital work and who may now be at risk”

White paper maps out major changes to UK gambling landscape

The mooted mandatory levy was just one of a host of proposals put forward in the much-anticipated white paper.

Other key topics covered in the white paper include affordability checks. Proposals were for players who lose £1,000 within 24 hours, or £2,000 over a period of 90 days, being subject to detailed checks on affordability.

In addition, operators will have to perform “passive” checks on players with a net loss beyond £125 each month, or £500 per year.

The white paper also proposed a consultation on stake limits and plans to implement a limit of between £2 and £15 per spin. Lower thresholds would be applied to new accounts.

There could also be an easing on land-based restrictions, such as allowing casinos to offer sports betting on site. Limits on slot machines in larger casinos could also be eased, at a 5:1 ratio for slots to table games.

In terms of advertising, the Gambling Commission will hold a consultation on new proposed controls for customers. Meanwhile, a new gambling ombudsman could be introduced to give customers one point of contact for industry queries.

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