Betting firms, health bodies and charities are to unite for the first time under a three-year strategy to make “much faster” progress with cutting gambling-related harm.
The National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms will co-ordinate work to tackle the problems and achieve a lasting impact, the Gambling Commission said.
Under the strategy, Public Health England will release its first review of evidence on health harms relating to gambling in spring next year.
The review will look at the range and scale of gambling harms and identify the impact of gambling on health and wellbeing.
The commission is calling for combined efforts to deliver “significant progress” towards a clear public health prevention plan as well as “truly national” treatment and support for problem gamblers and their families and friends.
It will also consider the establishment of a new national research centre, while work has started on a national data repository for research.
Gambling Commission chairman William Moyes said: “This new strategy will provide us and our partners the opportunity to make much faster progress to reduce gambling harms. It will not just benefit the health and wellbeing of those directly affected and in need of support, but also those such as friends, families, communities and wider society.
“The success of this strategy relies on everyone working together to reduce gambling harms through prevention and education, and treatment and support. Everyone has a role to play to combat gambling harms and I’m delighted that the health sector, charities and businesses are showing their commitment to get behind the strategy and make it a success.”
Minister for sport and civil society Mims Davies said: “Protecting people from harm should be at the heart of every gambling business. Addiction can ruin lives and it is vital that those who need help are given the right treatment at the right time.
“The Gambling Commission’s strategy reflects our clear expectation that the whole sector must come together to reduce problem gambling and the harm it does to people and their families.
“Through increased research, education and treatment I want to see faster progress made in tackling this issue.”
Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England, said: “There is increasing evidence of a link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health issues and this is an important step in the battle to reduce the harm caused.
“The NHS is playing its part with the Long Term Plan committing to an increase in mental health services for patients with a gambling problem, but gambling addiction is not just the NHS’s problem – it is an issue for the whole of society affecting people of all ages and backgrounds which is why it is everyone’s responsibility to act.”
Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, said: “Gambling is a serious public health issue and we welcome the importance the Gambling Commission has placed on collaboration between organisations to help reduce gambling harms.
“Last year, 30,000 people received advice from the National Gambling Helpline and 9,000 people were treated via a national network of providers we fund. However, less than 3% of the reported number of problem gamblers access services so it is clear there is much more to be done in raising awareness about this serious public health issue.”
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson welcomed the strategy and called for urgent Government action on its recommendations.
Mr Watson said: “It’s outrageous that this Tory Government is ignoring its own statutory adviser’s call for a mandatory levy on gambling companies to fund support for problem gamblers.
“Both the regulator and the industry agree that the current levy system needs to change.
“Problem gambling is the UK’s hidden epidemic and the harm it causes ruins lives.
“This cannot continue. This Government must listen to its regulator and take action, and it must do so urgently.”