Liberal Democrats seek Action to Tackle Problem Gambling

The Oldham Liberal Democrat Group is sponsoring a motion at this week’s full meeting of Oldham Council (11 July) seeking local action and more money from central Government to tackle problem and underage gambling.

The proposer of the motion is Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Group Leader and Leader of the Opposition on Oldham Council, who said: “Problem gambling is a blight on the lives of the individuals affected, and those of their loved ones.  For most, gambling is an occasional ‘flutter’ on the outcome of a sports match or at the races, or a small weekly outlay on the National Lottery; it is a recreational activity pursued for fun but in the hope of a big win.  But for a minority, gambling has become a real problem, an addiction that becomes obsessive and costly with victims losing hundreds or thousands of pounds every week.  It drains household finances, impacts on physical and mental health, and results in criminal activity, substance misuse, and family and marriage breakups; like loan sharks, problem gambling is a curse on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”

Councillor Sykes and his Liberal Democrat colleague, Councillor Chris Gloster, who is seconding the motion, are particularly concerned at the rise in online gambling as this is carried out away from licensed premises and so participants have no supervision when they play.  Increasingly this is leading to more vulnerable gamblers getting into more serious debt and in more young people taking up gambling, as internet access is improving, particularly on smart phones, this is likely to become an even bigger problem in future years.

Councillor Sykes added: “In our motion, we are calling upon the Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating the industry, to implement further measures to reduce problem gambling, discourage young people from becoming addicted to gambling, and to support gamblers with an addiction.  We also want the Council and its partners to work with the charity Gamble Aware to ensure that we are following the ‘best practice’ in this Borough, and to take the charity’s Gambling Toolkit into our schools and colleges to help inform our young people about the dangers of gambling.  Lastly we are calling on Government to provide Councils and local health authorities with more money to help us support individuals with a gambling addiction as these services are currently woefully inadequately funded.”

Motion – Tackling ‘Problem’ and Underage Gambling

 Council notes that:

  • The UK has the largest regulated online gambling market in the world, generating approximately £4.7 billion in gross gambling yield per annum.
  • The Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating this market.
  • There are an estimated 7 million on-line gambling accounts, with almost one in five gamblers now playing on-line.
  • This trend is moving upwards as more people possess smart phones and internet connectivity speeds continue to improve.
  • The Gambling Commission estimates that on-line gambling will generate 50% of all gross gambling yield by the end of the decade, up from 34%.
  • Most people who gamble do so for enjoyment and without developing a ‘problem’; however, according to GambleAware, there are an estimated 430,000 ‘problem’ gamblers. Typically ‘problem’ gamblers stake more money than they can afford and become addicted to the activity. Consequently they often suffer higher levels of physical and mental illness, debt problems, relationship and family breakdowns, substance misuse and criminality.
  • It is estimated that the cost to the public purse of supporting ‘problem’ gamblers could be up to £1.2 billion per annum, yet, according to GambleAware, only 2% are receiving treatment.
  • As on-line gambling is out of sight, carried out away from licensed premises where trained staff can intervene, it is anticipated that there will become more ‘problem’ gamblers and more young people gambling.
  • Despite their public health duties, Councils are not classed as ‘responsible authorities’ for addressing ‘problem’ gambling under the Gambling Act of 2005.

Council believes that:

  • With the rise of on-line gambling, further action needs to be taken by the Government, by the Gambling Commission and by the gambling industry to ensure that vulnerable persons, such as ‘problem’ gamblers and young people gambling, are provided with additional safeguards.
  • Local health authorities should be provided with adequate additional funding by central government to provide treatment to ‘problem’ gamblers
  • Local authorities should be regarded as ‘responsible authorities’ in supporting ‘problem’ gamblers and young people gambling, given their public health duties and adequate additional funding should be made available from central government for them to do so.
  • Schools, colleges and youth centres can also play a big part in educating young people about gambling.

Council welcomes:

  • The Government’s recent decision to reduce the maximum stake per play at Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2 in response to public concerns and those raised by politicians from all parties.
  • The Gambling Commission Review of March 2018 which recommends further safeguards for vulnerable customers gambling on-line (namely the age verification of customers, identifying customer gambling behaviour that is ‘problematic’ and interacting with them to address this, and making the terms and conditions of gambling services more transparent) and identifies issues awaiting review (particularly whether gambling on credit should be prohibited).

Council resolves to:

Ask the Chief Executive to write to:

  • The Gambling Commission to urge it to work as quickly as possible to implement the policy recommendations identified in Section 1.18 of the March 2018 Review, and to progress the areas of further work identified in Section 1.19 of the Review, particularly that relating to gambling on credit.
  • The Secretary of State for Local Government requesting the Minister recognise that local authorities should be regarded as ‘responsible authorities’ in addressing ‘problem’ or under-age gambling in their areas and provided with adequate additional government funding to enable them to do so.
  • The Secretary of State for Health requesting the Minister provide adequate additional funding to local health authorities to provide treatment to ‘problem’ gamblers.
  • The Secretary of State for Education requesting that education on the dangers of gambling be included within the national curriculum and that adequate government funding be provided to state schools to enable this to take place.
  • Ask the Chief Executive to send copies of these letters to our three local Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Greater Manchester and to seek their support for the Council’s position.
  • Ensure that information is displayed on the Council’s website to ‘signpost’ residents with a gambling ‘problem’ to the providers of relevant services, such as GambleAware and the National Gambling Helpline, to support them with their addiction.
  • Ensure that all schools, colleges and youth centres in the Borough are made aware of the Gambling Toolkit produced by GambleAware, which is available at http://fastforward.org.uk/gamblingtoolkit/
  • Ask the Overview and Scrutiny Board and Licensing Committee to consult with GambleAware and other relevant parties to ensure that this Council and its partner agencies are following best practice is raising public awareness of, and effectively addressing, ‘problem’ and under-age gambling in this Borough.
  • Ensure that the Council’s Gambling Policy reflects any recommendations that results from this work by the time of its renewal in January 2019.

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