UK health body calls for ban on “high risk” gambling products

The ADPH has recommended a "public health approach" to gambling harm.
The ADPH has recommended a "public health approach" to gambling harm.

The Association of Directors of Public Health also called for measures to prevent high concentrations of land-based gaming outlets.

UK.- The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), a body that represents the views of public health directors in the UK, has publicly called for changes to gambling legislation. Its proposals include a ban on “high risk” gambling products.

As the wait goes on for the results of the UK government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the ADPH has put out a statement recommending several changes. While it proposes a ban on “high risk” gambling products, it doesn’t suggest what products they would be or how the level of risk of a product would be defined.

It also called for a “public health approach” to gambling harm with measures to prevent high concentrations of land-based bookmakers – specifically “the clustering of gambling outlets in vulnerable communities alongside consideration of clustering with other forms of outlets/services with potential negative health impacts”.

The association said: “A public health approach is one that is guided by a vision that priorities the public’s health, and that is based on core values and principles, such as human rights, equity, and collective responsibility.

“Gambling harms already reflect social and health inequalities; with potential to affect anyone but with greater harm where there is increasing vulnerability in terms of mental health, income deprivation, age, gender, race, and ethnicity. Anyone may be vulnerable to gambling harms at some point in their lives.

“What we have a present is a gambling policy system and industry that creates, exacerbates, and exploits vulnerabilities, counter to the government’s duty to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone.”

It endorsed taking societal-level view of gambling harm, noting that more than just the gamblers who lose money are affected. As evidence, it signalled statistics from Public Health England on the wider cost of gambling harm.

“Public Health England’s review findings on the scale of the issue concluded that 0.5 per cent of our population were gambling at a problem level, with 7 per cent of the UK population negatively affected by gambling,” it said.

“This equates to over 4 million people in England and over 5 million people across the UK; 1 in 12 people are either directly or indirectly affected by gambling-related harms. The distribution of these negative impacts is unjust and unfair, with the greatest burden and risk of harmful gambling being experienced by socio-economically deprived, disadvantaged and minority groups.”   

Earlier this week, Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes told the Westminster Media Forum Gambling Regulation Conference that the delay to the government’s gambling paper was no excuse no to take action now.

The government has been promising all year that the white paper is coming soon, with its publication put back to spring. Now as spring turns to summer, there’s been plenty of rumour in the press about what’s in store. Rhodes told the conference that publication is “getting closer”, but said that the wait was not “an excuse not to tackle problems now”.

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