GambleAware have announced that donations and pledges for the first quarter of 2023-24 totalled £430,813. That figure is 1.1% down from the same period in 2022-23. The figures come soon after the UK Government is proposing a statutory levy for gambling companies.
The majority of the total amount received in the first quarter came from Research, Education and Treatment (RET) contributions made by UK’s top online casino operators and the legal gambling platforms as per British Gambler. The remaining £113,714 came from online betting site 888. Those funds came from monies in dormant betting accounts or unclaimed winnings.
There has been a year-on-year fall in the average RET donation made in the first quarter. The figure was £2,757 and that’s 9% lower than in the same period last year.
None of the biggest online casino operators made any donations in the first quarter. That might sound worrying but GambleAware have stated that their RET contributions are usually made towards the end of a financial year.
Of those companies that have made donations in the first quarter, the highest amount received was £50,000 from BetFred. They were followed by a donation of £35,000 by Games Global with Star Racing the next highest on £28,916. £25,000 was donated by Betway and £22,836 by Virgin Bet.
The 2022-23 financial year saw donations of £46.5 million, 34% higher than the previous financial year. 92% of those donations came from Flutter, bet365, Entain and William Hill with £42.9 million being donated between them.
At present the situation is that operators make voluntary contributions, not compulsory ones. A minimum of 0.1% of gross gaming yield is the suggested amount with the funds going to GambleAware.
This April finally saw the UK Government’s White Paper on gambling reform published. One of the proposals said that there should be a mandatory levy placed on gambling companies. The payments would be made to the UK Gambling Commission. They would then be used to help fund research, education and treatment for problems caused by gambling.
That is something that anti-gambling campaigners have long been calling for. Those running online casinos are quick to point out the fact that voluntary contributions have been made by them.
GambleAware offers prevention and treatment services for those being harmed by gambling. Their services include the National Gambling Support Network. They also work with several voluntary organisations such as for example, the NHS. The aim being to ensure that those who need the services are able to access them.
GambleAware have given their support for the proposal. Zoë Osmond is their chief executive and believes the proposal would give more “certainty and stability” for funding. If this is the case then it would “allow us and others to make long-term commitments to meet the needs of the population.”
It’s something the chief executive believes is needed as “gambling is a serious public health issue which can affect anyone.”
Support for the proposal has also come from Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the National Clinical Advisor on gambling harms for NHS England. The compulsory payments would help ensure that there is independent funding available. “It must be implemented without delay in order for fully integrated treatment pathways to be established,” she said.
Just when this compulsory levy would come into force isn’t known. This summer sees more consultation taking place on the proposals of the White Paper. Nothing is likely to happen until 2024 and that is a year in which the UK is expected to have a General Election.
Looking at the current polls, it’s looking as if Labour might come to power. What could happen to the gambling laws with Sir Keith Starmer as Prime Minister might be different from the proposals seen in the White Paper.
Many of the other proposals in the White Paper deal with online casinos. This was expected as the last Gambling Act came into force 18 years ago. The UK gambling industry has been transformed since then due to the arrival of online betting.
It’s now able to bet all day long at online casinos on everything from your laptops to mobile devices. It was important therefore that the White Paper had the aim of bringing legislation into the digital age.
Proposals include reducing stake limits on games at online casinos. This could see limits being as low as £2 and that is likely to affect the profits of online operators. With a statutory levy to be paid that isn’t good news for online casinos.
The concern of charities such as GambleAware is that gamblers are betting amounts that they cannot afford. The White Paper proposes stricter affordability checks for players losing a certain amount of money in a set period.
It’s an uncertain time therefore for online casinos in the UK. A statutory gambling levy is looking extremely likely though and while that might not be great news for companies, it is what charities and the NHS are wanting.