Tackling gambling-related harm

 

Sir, – We are writing in relation to a letter from Dr Colin O’Gara (June 30th) on gambling addiction in Ireland and the urgent need for the enactment of the Gambling Control Bill. We are in complete agreement with Dr O’Gara and strongly urge the Government to enact the legislation as soon as possible.

As mentioned by Dr O’Gara, the Bill would create a social fund, which would provide much-needed funding for problem gambling treatment, prevention and research, through the creation of a levy on gambling industry turnover. We strongly believe that, as in other jurisdictions, the gambling industry must be compelled to mitigate the harm caused by their products and services. Currently there is no dedicated statutory funding for problem gambling services in Ireland, and gambling addiction is not part of the HSE’s service plan for 2017. Unfortunately, even with the best efforts of government, it may take years before the social fund is active.

The Department of Finance recently held a review of betting duty. Betting duty in Ireland is among the lowest in the world, at 1 per cent of gambling industry turnover. The equivalent turnover rate in the UK is roughly 1.5 per cent. In our submission to the Department of Finance, we proposed that the betting duty be increased to 1.1 per cent, with the additional funds ring-fenced for problem gambling services. We proposed that this would be an interim measure, until the social fund is activated. While we are aware that Government is generally not in favour of ring-fencing funds, a precedent has been set in relation to betting duty, as the entire tax-take from this duty is ring-fenced for the Horse Racing & Greyhound Fund. Betting duty receipts amounted to approximately €50 million in 2016. This €50 million, plus an additional €30 million, was allocated to the Horse Racing & Greyhound Fund in 2017 – and yet zero funds were allocated to addressing the harm caused by problem gambling.

We believe our proposal to the Department of Finance to be a simple, effective and expedient way to resource services which deal with the rapidly escalating issue of gambling-related harm in Ireland. – Yours, etc,

BARRY GRANT,

Chief Executive,

Problem Gambling Ireland,

Viewmount House,

Viewmount Park,

Dunmore Road,

Waterford City;

MAEBH LEAHY,

Chief Executive,

Rutland Centre,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.