Head of mental health in England, Claire Murdoch, said on Wednesday that gambling firms should fund treatment for gaming addicts.
According to the Guardian, she complained that the NHS should not be left to “pick up the pieces” as these people require specialist help.
“After seeing the destruction the gambling industry has caused to young people in this country, it is clear that firms are focused on profit at the expense of people’s health, while the NHS is increasingly left to pick up the pieces,” she said.
“In a year when the NHS has dealt with our biggest challenge yet in Covid-19, the health service’s psychologists and nurses having been treating hundreds of people with severe gambling addictions.
“The gambling industry must take more responsibility, as the nation has come together over the last year to support the NHS, whether it be volunteering as vaccinators or showing their gratitude to staff. The bookmakers must also step up and agree to a mandatory levy to pay for dealing with the harms of problem gambling.”
Murdoch also decried the voluntary system by which firms decide how much they wish to donate to help people in need. According to the Guardian, there had been reports that some firms only give out nominal sums to appear on the donors’ lists.
Her comments came on the back of an ongoing review into the laws regulating the sector and the government’s plans to open more gambling clinics.
Mandatory levies for companies that inflict these mental health issues are being considered by regulators and the DCMS.
Gambling firms are nevertheless enjoying a very positive spell as the coronavirus lockdowns have led to people turning to online gaming and betting as a form of entertainment.
Companies such as Paddy Power and Ladbrokes Coral have seen a spike in demand and have duly cashed in.
Listed betting companies have seen their stocks turbocharged by the pandemic with Flutter rising a 70% since the start of 2020 for example.
UK gambling bosses have experienced a rise in personal wealth of £4.9bn according to This is Money. Denise Coates, CEO of Bet365, pocketed £469m in pay and dividends in 2019-2020.
Since April 2020, there have been 750 new gambling addicts that have needed specialist clinics, said the report from the Guardian.