The National Health Service (NHS) has warned that the Premier League must dedicate more efforts towards helping fund the bill caused by problem gambling. NHS England criticized betting firms for ignoring their duty of helping the more than 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK.
Foreign-owned betting firms that sponsor the Premier League have failed to contribute to a £10 million fund which is meant to pay for addict’s treatment.
Speaking during an annual NHS Expo in Manchester, Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England pointed out that betting has become one of the rising risk factors for mental health problems in the UK. He lamented that nine out of twenty Premier League teams and seventeen out of the twenty-four teams in the Championship League are being sponsored by betting firms.
A spokesperson for Gamble Aware argued that the relationship between gambling and sports has reached an alarming rate. He felt that having betting firms sponsor the Premier League and Championship teams, there is a high risk of more people becoming problem gamblers as the advertising that comes with it are normalizing betting for the society including children.
Data from the UK Gambling Commission indicate that there are over 430,000 problem gamblers who include more than 25,000 children below the age of sixteen. Stevens said that the trend was worrying. Stevens told his audience that foreign betting companies that have shirt sponsorship deals were consistently “failing to play their part” in funding gambling addiction services through the £10 million set by UKGC.
The NHS recently opened a clinic in London specializing in the treatment of betting addicts. Stevens emphasized the need for industry players to address problem gambling as a serious issue. “There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems,” he said. He reiterated that according to doctors, two-thirds of betting addicts get worse if they are not helped yet NHS offers specialist treatment.
Considering the nature of the problem, Stevens argued that taxpayers and NHS should not always be left “to pick up the pieces” since the health of the country is a responsibility of everyone.
Data from UKGC show reluctance and failure to pay the donations. According to a register of industry donations that was published in July, none of the eight foreign companies sponsoring UK football team had pledged any money to the fund. In the 2017/18 financial year, a number of the foreign betting giants donated £11,000, but failed did not contribute in time.
From the data, only Bet365 which appears to be complying as it had already paid £434,000 and had gone ahead to pledge £868,000 for this season.
Stevens said he will now be writing to clubs that have been sponsored by betting firms to persuade them to urge their sponsors to contribute to the fund. “The NHS will now work with the premiership on how we persuade these foreign gambling companies to do the right thing.”
However, though mental health conditions emanating from problem gambling affects more than 430,000 people and free treatment is readily available from firms such as Be Gamble Aware, only an estimated two percent who need the help come out to seek it.
Remote Gambling Association, a firm representing online betting firms, through a statement, said, “The association agrees that more funding is needed if the gambling industry as a whole is to fulfill its responsibilities to everyone in the country who gambles, and especially those who are affected by problem gambling.”
Tom Watson, the shadow secretary for culture and sports said, “Labour would ban sponsorship of Premier League teams by gambling companies and introduce a compulsory contribution to make the industry pay for the treatment of gambling addiction.”