Mixed Reactions To The Operators’ Voluntary Levy Increase Proposal

Viktor Vangelov | Published 25 Jun 2019, 12:03 p.m.

Last week we reported on the operators’ pledge to increase their financial contribution. If the proposal is accepted the operators would be contributing 1% instead of 0.1% which would see the donations go from £10 million up to £100 million. Although some estimates put the figure at £60 million, depending on how many and which operators opt to accept the scheme and increase their contribution.

However, not everybody is very happy about this, concerns have already been expressed about this. The move was branded a bribe and seen as an attempt to discourage regulators to implement tougher regulation. Critics say that the voluntary system isn’t working, and operators simply have not been contributing enough.

Many Operators Donate Too Little

All major operators in the UK – GVC, Paddy Power (Flutter Entertainment), William Hill, Sky Bet and Bet365 all agreed to increase the voluntary levy and the percent is supposed to be increased to 1% in five years.

Operators were criticised for raising only £10 million, especially since many companies failed to make a donation at all. When the UKGC report was publish and it became public knowledge that many operators donated as little as £5 or £10 just to get their name on the list of donators, whereas other companies didn’t even bother to make a donation at all.

Charities, politicians and other public figures are calling for the introduction of a mandatory tax, so that it wouldn’t be up to the operators to pay voluntarily, even if the percentage is raised, but they will be required by law to pay their part.

If the five largest operators stand by their decision and do in fact increase their contribution, the amount collected just from these five operators would amount to £60m.

A spokesperson who gave a statement in the name of all five companies outlined their plan to support the establishment and development of treatment centres for problem gamblers in an attempt to ensure that all young and vulnerable groups will be protected. It was also stated that the companies will continue to work further on the important issues and will consult other parties and stakeholders with a goal to minimise the impact and the effects of gambling-related harm in the country.

Should There Be A Mandatory Levy?

Jeremy Wright, the current culture secretary already expressed his opinion that the industry and all companies within the industry need to be socially responsible and protect their players, including but not limited to, providing funding for treatment, but also research and education aimed at tackling problem gambling.

He added that protecting families and individuals from gambling harm is a top priority for the current government. The opposition has also a pretty strong position on dealing with gambling-related harm, so we can expect more restrictive regulation in the upcoming period, regardless whether the Tories stay in power, or Labour win the next election.

Mims Davies, sports minister was heavily criticised when he stated that a mandatory levy might not be necessary. However, the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) has entered talks with operators regarding their contributions and how to increase the amount that operators raise towards this purpose.  

GVC initiated the 1% voluntary levy proposal, but they soon gained support and all five companies agreed with it. The agreement hasn’t been finalised yet and the tax wouldn’t be mandatory. SNP MP Ronnie Cowan said that the proposal is a bribe and there should be a statutory levy.