Only a public health approach can tackle the harm done by gambling | Letters

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Your editorial (14 March) helpfully argues that it is time the government recognised the public harm that gambling does. It refers to the recent appeal from senior doctors that there should be a statutory levy on the gambling industry to pay for treatment for gambling dependency.

From 2004-06, I ran the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, the body then responsible for raising “voluntary” funds from the industry to pay for research, education and treatment. It was evident then that voluntary funding was inadequate, and I costed full national treatment needs and campaigned internally with the industry and the government to impose a statutory levy to pay for it.

Sixteen years on, it has still not happened. However, I now believe it is utterly misguided. Benson & Hedges doesn’t fund smoking addiction care nor does Carling fund alcohol dependency treatment. It is time the state recognised that gambling addiction is on a par with those problems and should be funded by the public purse, with proper taxation on the gambling industry to support it. The lobbying of the gambling industry on MPs and ministers means that the levy route is doomed to failure, as well as being a cop-out on the government’s responsibility.
Robin Burgess
Northampton

GambleAware works closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and commissions the National Gambling Treatment Service, bringing together a range of providers, which is well integrated with the NHS. Furthermore, all our work is led by research and is independently evaluated. GambleAware is also a strong supporter of a mandatory levy, is accountable to the Charity Commission and has robust systems of governance in place, ensuring that the gambling industry has absolutely no influence over any of our activity.

Gambling requires a public health approach which includes addressing social vulnerability, prevention and treatment. We are proud of our contribution to the national strategy to reduce gambling harms and continue to support more than 40,000 people each year via the National Gambling Treatment Service.
Zoë Osmond
Chief executive, GambleAware

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