Matt Hancock backs calls for a clampdown on incentives offered by betting firms to keep customers gambling
- Matt Hancock urged betting firms to scrap aggressive tactics that fuel crisis
- He backed calls for ban on ‘bet-to-view’ sports, pervasive adverts and free bets
- NHS warned ‘the clock is ticking’ with more lives destroyed every day
Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday backed demands for betting firms to immediately end ‘shameful’ incentives that lure punters into a ‘vicious cycle’.
Throwing down the gauntlet to bookies, he urged them to scrap aggressive tactics that are fuelling a mental health crisis.
Mr Hancock said it was ‘absolutely right’ of the NHS to warn that taxpayers could no longer pick up the pieces of lives wrecked by gambling. He backed calls for a ban on ‘bet-to-view’ sports, pervasive advertising, free bets and VIP experiences for big spenders.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged betting firms to scrap aggressive tactics that are fuelling the mental health crisis
His intervention came as:
- The NHS warned ‘the clock is ticking’, with more lives destroyed every day the firms fail to act;
- Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan yesterday urged the FA to scrap its ‘extraordinary’ six-year deal with betting giants;
- It emerged the owners of BetFred make millions from a firm that treats gambling addiction.
The outcry comes a week after the Mail exposed how FA Cup games are streamed live on betting websites to any fan with an account as part of a £750million deal.
On Wednesday, NHS mental health chief Claire Murdoch wrote to all major gambling companies saying the health service should no longer be expected to ‘put out the fires’ they start.
Church call to probe suicide links
The Church of England yesterday launched a bid to find out how often gambling is a factor when people take their own lives.
A Lords Private Members’ Bill will call for coroners to record if someone who committed suicide was a gambling addict.
The change in the law on inquests would ‘shock policymakers from their complacency’, said the Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith.
The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords yesterday. Dr Smith said: ‘I have met far too many families whose lives have been destroyed by the loss of a loved one, often young adults who have their entire lives ahead of them.
‘I expect the first data set will shock policymakers from their complacency and help to stop our society from continuing to sleepwalk through this crisis.’
The bishop said two suicides every working day are thought to be linked to gambling. But both politicians and the betting industry say there is too little information to justify taking action.
Gambling addiction costs the NHS up to £700million a year. The health service has recently opened 14 problem gambling clinics as part of a £2.3billion investment in mental health.
Mrs Murdoch is calling for an end to cashback incentives and VIP deals that see high-loss customers lavished with perks.
She also wants an immediate end to aggressive advertising, credit card betting and bet-to-view live streaming of sport. The practices have all been exposed by the Daily Mail’s Stop The Gambling Predators campaign.
Yesterday Mr Hancock backed Mrs Murdoch’s demands, stating: ‘There are three actions that we’ve asked them to take, all set out very clearly.
‘Gambling-related harm is a growing priority of the NHS.
‘Betting companies need to do more to prioritise the mental health impact of problem gamblers. I strongly support the work that Claire Murdoch is doing to insist that betting companies do what is necessary.’
Ministers are reviewing the 2005 Gambling Act and are widely expected to tighten the rules governing how bookmakers operate.
But campaigners say betting firms should not wait for legislation and must ‘do the right thing’ now with voluntary regulation.
Last night Mrs Murdoch told the Mail: ‘The clock continues to tick for gambling firms to act. Every day they fail to do the right thing, more people’s lives will continue to be tragically wrecked by this appalling addiction.’
Gambling addiction costs the NHS up to £700million a year. Stock picture
Baroness Morgan urged the FA to scrap its deal with gambling firms. She told The House magazine: ‘It is quite extraordinary… that we would want to encourage people to have to open an online betting account in order to be able to watch a football match.’
Sports minister Nigel Adams announced that the betting sites will no longer have exclusive rights for the rest of this season’s competition.
Brigid Simmons, chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents bookmakers, said: ‘We are taking action on all of the points the NHS has made. We care about vulnerable people and people with mental illness.’
On Tuesday the Gambling Commission, the industry regulator, announced that punters will be banned from using credit cards to place bets online and in shops from April 14.
But the NHS said betting firms must implement the ban now to prevent more Britons being sucked into debt.