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UK to Apply Landmark Public Health Gambling Levy

Penny October 23, 2023

There has been no shortage of stories coming out of the UK about shake-ups in the state of legal gambling in recent years. From intense debates around the place that gambling has in professional sport to the difficulties posed in regulating crypto casinos, the country has been pushing the discussion around the industry. The latest development appears to be the biggest of all of them as the nation looks set to implement a new levy on gambling operators in an attempt to funnel some of the profits from these companies into the National Health Service. That’s a British institution that has been struggling for some time to deal with a number of issues, particularly those in the world of mental health. Could this help a struggling public health system build a more robust approach to dealing with vulnerable people with problematic gambling behaviours?

uk gambling levy

A First of Its Kind for a Concerned Nation

It’s no secret that the UK is developing concerns about the industry and the potential impact it has on public health. In July of 2023, the head of the NHS England was reported by the BBC as imploring football executives to consider the impacts that gambling advertisements and sponsorship have on young people. This was in the wake of the number of gambling addiction centers in the country doubling. It was highlighted that this need for growth was in part driven by a steep rise in problematic gambling amongst young people in the country. It’s clear, then, that there has been motivation for change from one side of the debate. Now, though, it would seem that the government as a whole has relented and decided it was time that greater resources were employed to help curb this rise. With the increase in centers, staff, and resources comes the need for financing, though. That’s where this latest announcement comes into play.


According to a report in the Guardian, it is predicted that around £100 million will be paid by gambling operators directly into a fund for the NHS. This will be used to fund research, prevention, and treatment for addictions to gambling. It is hoped that this would plug the gap that the NHS has regularly faced when it comes to funding mental health services across the country. This new approach will see online operators paying out 1% of their revenue to the fund, while brick-and-mortar venues will have to pay 0.4%. This is a significant amount of money, and where the prediction of £100 million comes from. The industry was worth more than a billion in revenue in 2022. If it continues to grow as many experts predict, and industry heads hope, the funding for public health will also only grow. For those in prevention and treatment, that will be welcomed, as they can scale up alongside the industry. In many ways, though, this is an area of legal gambling that the country has long lagged behind other industries on and, to some, is a case of too little, too late – or a little, quite a bit late, at best.

Taxes for Public Health Common in Other Industries

Remaining in the area of the UK and Ireland, one only needs to look at the alcohol, tobacco, and food industries for examples of how levies have been used to protect against diminishing public health. Scotland was the first country to impose a minimum price per unit of alcohol in 2018, according to CNN. While that is slightly different to a levy that directly funnels money into the health service, it was a method of generating extra tax revenue and focusing on the prevention of the harm caused. When it comes to tobacco, both the UK and Ireland have seen the cost of cigarettes regularly increase in an effort to offset the cost that smoking has on the health of both nations. In fact, Statista data shows that the two countries have the highest cigarette prices in the EU.


With public health initiatives looking to focus more on prevention and reduction through the imposition of taxes and price hikes, it’s not much of a surprise that the gambling industry has followed suit. After a busy few years of backwards and forwards on the topic of the societal harm caused by gambling in the UK, it was only a matter of time before fairly drastic approaches were adopted in order to get the perceived problematic gambling issue under control. As such, this could be the first of many new steps that the government there takes as it looks to enforce its power over the matter.

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