Betting Cos lobbied UK government over proposed tough regulations

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Some of Britain’s betting giants are revealed to have quietly lobbied Treasury officials against a proposed industry crackdown, claiming it will cost billions of pounds in lost tax receipts reported The Guardian.

The government is reviewing the gambling regulation and recently banned celebrities from promoting betting websites. In November, Gambling With Lives-affiliated (GWL) campaign group The Big Step launched Football Supporters Against Gambling Ads (Football SAGA), to galvanize support to put a stop to gambling advertising in the sport. A group of prominent politicians, public figures, and religious leaders in the UK have recently written calling for strict limits on online gambling in the UK

Executives representing Bet365, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes met officials from the Treasury and Revenue and Customs, warning a radical overhaul of the industry could drive gamblers to the black market. The meeting was with tax officials rather than ministers and was therefore not required to be automatically disclosed by the government.

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The betting industry claims there is a “very real risk” that the taxes of about £3.2bn a year it hands to the Treasury could be hit by tougher rules for the sector. A government white paper on gambling reforms by a committee headed by Carolyn Harris, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm (APPG) is due to be published shortly.

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Harris earlier stated that he considers putting a £100 ($131) limit on net deposits per month is reasonable considering the fact that 85% of the people who do not play slots and 73% of the people who play slots lose around £50 ($65.6) monthly and UK’s average disposal income is around £450 ($590.7) a month.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of the campaign group Clean Up Gambling, said: “The industry is trying to water down the proposed reforms in the gambling review by lobbying tax officials under the radar. This is massive propaganda from an industry that has engaged in tax avoidance for years. I hope the Treasury isn’t buying it. There needs to be full transparency over this lobbying campaign.”

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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a review of the gambling laws in December 2020 amid concerns that too many people are suffering significant harm. An NHS survey in 2018 showed there were about 245,000 problem gamblers in England. A Public Health England study last year estimated there are 409 suicides a year associated with problem gambling. Campaigners want a new levy on the industry to fund research and treatment for problem gamblers.