Report claims problem gambling costs government £1.2bn
Bookmaker representatives have said they will closely examine a report that estimates problem gambling costs the government as much as £1.2 billion annually.
However, the Remote Gambling Association said the government should use money raised from taxation of the sector to tackle the problem.
The report, carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank for GambleAware, estimated problem gamblers cost the government between £260 million and £1.2bn per year despite being only 0.4 to 1.1 per cent of the adult population.
Costs associated with health provision were the main drain on resources, along with welfare and employment, housing and criminal justice.
GambleAware is seeking to increase the funding it receives from the industry to £10m a year and its chief executive Marc Etches said: "Problem gambling is an issue that affects millions of people across Britain each day.
"We’re working hard to raise awareness of the issue and to help people see the true cost of gambling addiction.
"GambleAware is keen to put problem gambling on the public health agenda, as it’s no different to any other kind of addiction."
Remote Gambling Association chief executive Clive Hawkswood said the industry had to listen carefully to the findings of such reports.
"There are always lessons to be learned," he said. "In this case it is perhaps unfortunate that the report only highlights one side of the equation by solely addressing the costs to government of problem gambling which it puts in a range of £260m and £1.2bn per year."
He added: "However, in gambling taxation alone we know the government raised more than £2.6bn in 2015/16 so, at a time when there is increasing demand for the industry to do more and contribute more to GambleAware, it is right to call on the government itself to put more resource into combating problem gambling by recognising it as a public health issue and acting accordingly."
Giving the land-based sector's response, a spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers said: "The IPPR report is another important contribution to the responsible gambling research that is independently commissioned by GambleAware and funded by the gambling industry. We will study the findings closely and take on board any learnings from the research."
Meanwhile, the government has agreed to give more powers over gaming machines to the Welsh government.
A change to the Wales Bill means ministers will get responsibility for authorising gaming machines where the maximum stake is more than £10, although it will only apply to new licences.
In response, the ABB spokesperson said: "Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland, and we comply with it fully.
"Betting shops in Wales offer the safest place to gamble and we are already the most highly regulated retailer on the high street.
"No betting shop in Wales can open without a licence from their local authority and they must abide by over 90 pages of regulations."