According to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS (National Health Service), Premier League football clubs and the foreign bookmakers that sponsor them are failing at their duty to help protect problem gamblers. Speaking at a conference in Manchester, Mr. Stevens called out the overseas betting companies for their failure to make the required donations to an industry charity that was formed to help in tackling gambling addiction.
“There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems. Doctors report that two-thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help, and the NHS does offer specialist treatment,” Simon Stevens said. “But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning. Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces. The health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.”
He further described compulsive gambling as one of the “new threat” that the NHS has to deal with waring that the implications could be very serious especially since the already overstretched NHS has had to “pick up the pieces” from gambling-related mental health issues.
“One of the things, if we’re serious about prevention, that we need to do – we need to be getting on to the Premier League and asking them to ensure that those foreign gambling firms are playing their part,” he added.
According to the UK Gambling Commission, the UK has about 430,000 problem gamblers, a number that is likely to grow even further if nothing is done. In fact, the NHS has already moved to open its first mental clinic aimed specifically at problem gamblers but this is a just a drop in the ocean when compared to what really needs to be done.
“This is at the same time as the voluntary contribution from the gambling industry has not been responded to by eight overseas firms who sponsor Premier League clubs, so we need to get onto the Premier League to make sure they contribute.”
The dire need for interventions has been recognized and echoed by a number of organizations including GambleAware which has openly welcomed the NHS chief’s component.
“With nearly half the clubs in the Premier League and over two-thirds of the Championship league sponsored by gambling companies, we are seriously concerned the relationship between sport and gambling has reached a tipping point. There is a real risk gambling advertising and sponsorships are normalizing gambling for children. We welcome the call from NHS England for gambling companies, wherever they are based, to contribute more to treating problem gambling,” a spokesperson from GambleAware said. “We would like to see all clubs, leagues, and broadcasters who profit from gambling work with us to help fund treatment for this hidden addiction.”