Addiction tax for U.K. gambling industry?

The Money

The U.K. gambling industry is flourishing like never before and the government wants to impose an "addict tax" that would go to treating problem gamblers.

According to a story published in the Sunday Mail gamblers lose £3.5 billion in the U.K., over £350 million of that in Scotland alone. That works out to a loss of £75 per person in Scotland. The sum does not include amounts lost in casinos, bingo halls and the National Lottery.

Research from the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Business School claims that U.K. citizens are spending double the amount on betting compared to 2001 when a previous betting tax was removed.

One of the lead researchers for the unit, Professor Leighton Vaughn Williams, had some additional theories on what has led to the explosion of gambling in the U.K. and particularly in Scotland.

"The advent of the National Lottery had a lot to do with de-stigmatising gambling," he said in the Mail article. "Cable TV, with more sport screened so people can bet while a match or race is on, also led to an increase in betting."

Williams went on to say that problems with gambling must be addressed directly.

"You do have some people who have problems with gambling," he said. "But you don't solve the problem by shutting your eyes to it, you solve it by regulating the industry."

Government officials are taking note. Many want to add a tax for gambling operators that would see a percentage go toward help for gambling addicts.

"A mandatory levy on all gambling firms operating in Scotland must be established," said SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson.

The Gambling Act 2005 includes an article stipulating that firms will voluntarily pay into a fund which is used to help gamblers hooked on betting. Not all operators are complying, however. Companies gave only half of the expected £4 million in 2007.

Gibson has called for Westminster to give the Scottish Parliament the power to make the levy compulsory.

"It is simply not acceptable for gambling firms to make a fortune in profits from the Scottish people while largely ignoring their social responsibility to help educate people of the dangers of gambling and contribute to the treatment of gambling addicts."

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