It's about time gambling addiction was taken seriously

Some gambling companies, driven by greed, are deliberately targeting our poorest communities even as hundreds of thousands of lives are ruined by addiction. 

Research by the Gambling Association published last month shows the number of problem gamblers in this country has risen by a third in just three years. 2 million people are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction. 

Children and young people are being targeted by betting advertisers more than ever. And we now know that when vulnerable people try to opt-out of online gambling, companies don’t always block their accounts, as they should.

Gambling companies are even harvesting data to deliberately target low-income gamblers and people who have given up gambling. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if drinks manufacturers targeted members of Alcoholics Anonymous by selling vodka outside AA meetings? 

We wouldn’t tolerate that – and we should no longer tolerate the same pattern of irresponsible behaviour by some bookmakers.

Gambling companies must be held to account for this abuse of trust and power. And addicts must be given the help they need. Gambling addiction is an illness and it’s about time it was taken seriously.

That's why today, I'm announcing that together with Jonathan Ashworth, our shadow Health Secretary, I’m launching a thorough review of gambling addiction in this country and current provision for treatment on the NHS.

It will assess the feasibility of making the gambling industry pay a compulsory levy to fund NHS treatment and help lift problem gamblers out of the destructive cycle of addiction. At the moment, the industry is asked to make voluntary contributions of 0.1 per cent of profits – but it doesn’t.

So my message to gambling firms today could not be clearer: stop targeting vulnerable people. Start acting responsibly. And meet your obligation to help those whose lives been blighted by addiction. You can do it now, because it’s the right thing to do. Or you can wait for the next Labour government to do it for you.

And mark my words – we will.