Council Scrutiny Committee calls on Government to do more to tackle problem gambling

mobile phone showing advert for gambling

Posted on: 28 February 2020

The Chairman of a Devon County Council Scrutiny Committee is calling on the Government to ban online gambling, phase out use of fixed-odd betting terminals, and prevent gambling adverts that target vulnerable groups.

Councillor Alistair Dewhirst, Chairman of the Council’s Corporate Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee, has written to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Nigel Huddleston MP, calling for the series of measures to be adopted nationally to tackle problem gambling.

“The Scrutiny Committee feel compelled to place on record its members’ continued and extreme concern regarding people who have a gambling problem and the wider societal impact caused,” writes Cllr Dewhirst to the Minister.

Photo of Cllr Alistair Dewhirst

Councillor Alistair Dewhirst

“The Committee acknowledges that stemming from the recent Gambling Act 2019, there have been a series of national initiatives to support responsible gambling.”

He says that the Committee is also aware of the Gambling Commission’s soon to be published three-year National Strategy to reduce gambling harms; as well as the NHS’s commitments to support people with serious gambling problems.

“However,” he writes, “the Scrutiny Committee asserts that these developments, while valuable, do not address the underlying damage caused by problem gambling and in particular the disproportionate impact that gambling has on the most vulnerable in society and their families.

“Despite efforts at a local level to understand the scale of the problem and to work cross-agency to put services in place, gambling related harm is increasing and it is noted that this is at a time when profits from gambling are also increasing.

While adding that the committee welcomes the Conservative Party manifesto to pledge to ‘make the UK the safest place to be online’, its members are calling on the Government to act nationally to tackle the escalating problem, by:

• Moving to a position where it is not possible to gamble online
• Phasing out entirely the use of fixed-odds betting terminals
• Taking steps to prevent targeted advertising of gambling to the most vulnerable, including under eighteens, and those at higher risk of becoming problem gamblers.
• Acknowledgement and direction to Public Health to address the mental health and suicide correlation with problem gambling, particularly with children

The Committee reviewed the impact of problem gambling in Devon, in 2018, acknowledging that many people undertake and enjoy gambling without significant ramifications.

‘However’, the committee concluded, ‘this may mask the seriousness and speed of potential harm to those to whom gambling does present a problem. The potential consequences from increasingly easy to access gambling websites can very quickly add up to significant debt.’

Cllr Dewhirst said:

“Having conducted our review into this issue locally and therefore have seen the impact that gambling can have on individuals and society, we feel so strongly about it that we are writing to the Government urging them to take these additional steps to protect people who have a gambling problem. We will wait for their response.”

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