Updated: Jun 22, 2022
In this article, we illustrate two issues with the funding for efforts to prevent, research, and treat gambling harm.
1) Chronic underfunding of RET
2) Issues with the distribution of RET funding
Gambling operator director remunerations vs RET funding
From 2016 to 2020, the total director remunerations across ten top gambling companies were £2.19 billion. Bet365 makes up a considerable amount of this, with £1.91 billion in key management personnel remunerations. In comparison, totalled, all other companies’ remunerations were £278 million.
In contrast, total funding for gambling harm research, education, and treatment received £77.19 million between 2016 and 2020. Total funding for gambling harm RET equates to 3.5% of the spending on director remunerations for ten top gambling companies.
Focusing solely on 2020 alone, total remunerations across the ten companies were £654 million. Again, Bet365 makes up a significant amount with £607 million in key management personnel remunerations with all other companies’ remunerations together standing at £46.4 million.
In contrast, funding given to gambling harm research, education, and treatment totalled £27.3 million in 2020 (4.2% compared to the remunerations).
A comparison of remunerations of gambling operators and RET funding between 2016 and 2020.
Note: Our figures reflect on ten of the top leading gambling companies: Bet365, Camelot Group, Entain (Coral, Ladbrokes), Flutter Entertainment (Paddy Power, Betfair), Gamesys, Kindred Group (Unibet, 32Red), Rank Group, Playtech, William Hill and 888. Remunerations include the base salary and all other forms of financial compensation (e.g., bonuses) paid to directors or key management personnel. Statistics were calculated from Companies House (1), the Gambling Commission (4, 5) and the Charity Commission (6).
Funding for charities can be received in two different ways:
Gambling operators must donate an annual financial contribution (RET contribution) to a charity that focuses on research, education and treatment of gambling harm, as a condition of holding a Gambling Commission Licence. No amount is specified in the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (2).
Funding from regulatory settlements. A payment to a charity that addresses gambling-related harm can be made as part of a settlement with the Gambling Commission when regulatory action is taken against a gambling operator. The gambling operator cannot receive positive publicity, and the money needs to be separate from RET contributions and should be given for socially responsible purposes (3).
Distribution of funding
In 2020, charities received £27.26 million, with £17.57 million in RET contributions from industry and £9.68 million in regulatory settlements.
In 2021, charities received £60.46 million, with £37.05 million in RET contributions from industry and £23.41 million in regulatory settlements.
Funding for charities has increased, comparing 2020 to 2021. However, the distribution is uneven across organisations.
In 2020, GambleAware’s income was £16.88 million, with £15.59 million in donations from industry and £1.29 million in regulatory settlements. In comparison, the total from other RET organisations was £10.38 million, with £1.99 million in RET donations from industry and £8.39 million in regulatory settlements.
Funding has started to be given over a broader range of charities during 2021. However, GambleAware still receives the majority of the income with £33.63 million; of which £24.83 million is from voluntary donations from the gambling industry and £8.8 million in regulatory settlements. In comparison, in 2021, £26.83 million was given towards all other RET efforts with £12.22 million in voluntary donations from the gambling industry and £14.61 million in regulatory settlements.
Voluntary RET Donations between 2016 to 2021.
Note: RET contributions shown of organisations which have been published by the Gambling Commission with additional analysis conducted for GambleAware, GamCare, YGAM, and Gambling with Lives using the Charity Commission service. Organisations shown include Action Against Gambling Harms, ARA, Betblocker, Bet Know More, EPIC Risk Management, Gambling with Lives, GambleAware, GamCare, Gordon Moody Association, Leon House Health and Wellbeing, Red Card Gambling, Sport in Mind and YGAM. Statistics were calculated from the Gambling Commission (4) and annual returns from the Charity Commission (6). May include public donations for YGAM and GamCare as it was not possible to separate.
Regulatory settlements between 2018 to 2021.
Overall Income (Voluntary RET donations and Regulatory Settlements) between 2016 and 2021.
The comparison between remunerations and RET funding reflects a chronic issue of insufficient funding and illustrates industry priorities towards profits over meaningful harm reduction. The voluntary system does not help organisations develop effective long-term strategic planning to reduce harms created by gambling, due to the uncertainty and lack of consistency over funding (7).
“Increases in funding first promised by five of the largest gambling operators nearly one year ago have yet to materialise, and industry has now demonstrated its ability and willingness to change the direction of funding at short notice” - Wardle et al., 2020 (7).
This demonstrates the unstable environment and is further shown by the gambling commission review into RET arrangements in 2018, where the industry had “consistently failed to meet GambleAware’s modest funding aspiration (0.1% of GGY), by a significant margin” (8) and that “there is a strong case for implementing a statutory levy if the industry cannot provide what is needed voluntarily” (8).
Another issue caused by the voluntary RET contributions is the uneven funding distribution. Most donations go to GambleAware, rather than across a range of charities, and focus on treatment rather than prevention (7).
“The task was hopeless, as the industry worked to undermine all the evidence and deny their responsibility, blocking use of their funding for education and research into how gambling causes addiction” - Robin Burgess, Former CEO of the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, 2021 (9).
Researchers have reflected that unilateral decision-making in funding allocations is one way the industry exerts influence (7). To counteract this, researchers are calling for the primary aim of the new government white paper to focus on the prevention of harm (10).
The gambling commission stated in 2018 that there should be “Demonstrable independence and rigour of the research process” (8); this has not been achieved due to the industry's influence in the voluntary system. Researchers and health experts have stressed their concerns to decision-makers and highlighted the need for a levy that funds prevention and treatment free from real or perceived industry influence. (7, 10, 11). New Zealand has a statutory levy (12). Independent funding for research and treatment should be under the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS (10) or by an organisation such as UK Research and Innovation (7). This would follow the NHS, which has announced they are cutting ties with voluntary funding from the Gambling Industry via GambleAware (13, 14).
Overall, with the approaching gambling act review, the government should recognise gambling harm as a significant public health issue, like smoking, and that it needs similar funding (9). Public health experts are calling for three criteria that need to be met by the government,
1) The scale of gambling harm to be recognised with due attention given to affected others.
2) The gambling industry should not be involved in how to prevent gambling harm, as it is a conflict of interest.
3) The legislation should assume a precautionary principle; lack of definitive evidence cannot be a licence for inaction(11).
1) Companies House. Available from: https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk
2) LCCP 3.1.1 Combating problem gambling. Available from: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/lccp/condition/3-1-1-combating-problem-gambling
3) Payments in lieu of financial penalties 2.14. Available from: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/policy/statement-of-principles-for-determining-financial-penalties/statement-of-principles-for-determining-financial-penalties-applicable
4) LCCP RET contributions data – January 2020 to March 2021. Available from: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/guide/list-of-organisations-for-operator-contributions#lccp-ret-contributions-data-january-2020-to-march-2021
5) Information about destinations of regulatory settlements to be applied for socially responsible purposes. Available from: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/page/regulatory-settlements-applied-for-socially-responsible-purposes
6) Charity Commission Register. Available from: https://register-of-charities.charitycommission.gov.uk
7) Wardle H, Banks J, Bebbington P, Blank L, Bowden Jones OBE H, Bramley S et al. Open letter from UK based academic scientists to the secretaries of state for digital, culture, media and sport and for health and social care regarding the need for independent funding for the prevention and treatment of gambling harms. BMJ 2020; 370:m2613. Available from: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2613
8) Gambling Commission. Reviewing the research, education and treatment (RET) arrangements. 2018. Available from: https://consult.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/author/copy-of-national-strategy-to-reduce-gambling-harms/user_uploads/review-of-ret-arrangements-february-2018.pdf
9) R Burgess. Gambling firms will never take responsibility for addiction. The Guardian. 13 April 2021. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/apr/13/gambling-firms-will-never-take-responsibility-for-addiction
10) M Gaskell. Gambling addiction treatment should be led by health experts. The Times. 2 February 2022. Available from: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/gambling-addiction-treatment-should-be-led-by-health-experts-nnvpqfzxq
11) van Schalkwyk, M C I, Blythe, J, McKee, M, Petticrew, M. Gambling Act Review. BMJ 2022; 376:o248. Available from: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o248
12) Gambling (Problem Gambling Levy) Regulations 2019. Available from: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2019/0134/10.0/whole.html
13) E Dugan. NHS cuts ties to gambling cash. The Times. 30 January 2022. Available from: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nhs-cuts-ties-to-gambling-cash-3kskx6b6n
14) T Menmuir. GambleAware faces RET rethink as NHS cuts gambling funding ties. SBC News. 31 January 2022. Available from: https://www.sbcnews.co.uk/social-responsibility/2022/01/31/gambleaware-faces-ret-rethink-as-nhs-cuts-gambling-funding-ties/