Tom Watson’s warning shot: Take responsible gambling seriously or expect action from politicians

  • Labour Party deputy leader warns UK industry to take problem gambling more seriously
  • A Labour government would introduce a compulsory levy on the gambling industry

As the UK debate on problem gambling continues inside and outside Parliament, a senior UK politician has delivered a warning to the industry.

Tom Watson has warned gambling operators to take responsible gambling more seriously.
Tom Watson has warned operators to take responsible gambling more seriously.

Last month, opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Top Watson spoke about what he described as a hidden epidemic of gambling addiction at the Labour Party conference, and in Thursday’s edition of the Daily Mirror, he launched a strong attack on the gambling industry.

Watson referred to figures from the UK Gambling Commission, which indicate that over 400,000 people in Britain have a gambling problem and another two million are at risk, and said that the nation had not been taking seriously a problem that can wreck lives and lead to family breakdown as well as crime and other anti-social behaviour.

And while he welcomed the Responsible Gambling Week, developed by the gambling industry along with the charities GambleAware and GamCare, he said that many bookmakers and gambling companies were not taking the problem seriously.

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“There are parts of this industry that take their social responsibilities very seriously – but there are far too many who pay lip service to responsible gambling and act in a pernicious and damaging manner, particularly to those most at risk of developing a gambling addiction.”

Most in the firing line are machines called fixed odds betting terminals, found in most UK high street betting shops, which have been singled out as being most destructive.

Compulsory levy

In his hard-hitting column, Watson went on to cite examples of poorly-trained staff in bookmakers, who were failing to intervene in clear cases of problem gambling, and online gambling companies failing to do enough to protect vulnerable customers.

The body representing bookmakers, the Association of British Bookmakers, maintains that people can gamble safely high street shops, and said that any shackles placed on betting must show clear evidence of positive outcomes in terms of problem gambling.

He also criticised the industry for failing to make a significant contribution to research into gambling addiction, stating that the industry had given just £10 million this year.

Watson ended his article with a warning, urging gambling companies to take their responsibilities more seriously and stating that a future Labour government would introduce a compulsory levy on gambling companies to fund efforts to tackle gambling addiction.

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