North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

Place your bets in the levelling-up stakes

PLACE YOUR BETS IN THE LEVELLING UP STAKES

The gambling industry claims to be spearheading the levelling-up agenda, with the support of a former Conservative cabinet minister and the implied endorsement of UK’s universities and the NHS, among others.

‘UK betting and gaming industry leads the way “Levelling Up” the United Kingdom’ says the headline on an item written by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) on the online news-site PoliticsHome.

‘Britain’s regulated betting and gaming industry will generate 15,000 tech jobs in the next five years, as part of an ambitious Levelling Up agenda benefitting the whole UK,’ it says.

‘The online betting, gaming and bingo sector already directly employs 10,000 high skilled technology jobs and supports a further 30,000 posts, but industry experts predict even more job creation outside London based on current global growth trends for UK based betting and gaming businesses.’

The BGC describes itself as the standards body for the regulated UK betting and gaming industry, excluding the National Lottery. The industry’s contribution to levelling up features in a new report from the Purpose Coalition, a body said to be ‘made up of the UK’s most innovative purpose-led leaders and organisations’, with members including the BBC, NHS Trusts, UK councils and UK universities as well as commercial organisations.

The Purpose Coalition, chaired by former Conservative Education Secretary Justine Greening, helps organisations and companies measure their Levelling Up work by setting goals and assessing their achievements against them. Their report on the gambling industry found the regulated betting and gaming sector exceeds in key areas, including creating high skilled jobs, providing a valuable economic footprint, and investment in the communities in which they operate.

The Coalition’s Levelling Up Impact Report’ informs readers that the betting and gaming industry supports 119,000 jobs, is creating 5,000 new apprenticeships and a further 15,000 tech jobs and is spending £20m on training and staff development. In the North East, the report says, the betting and gaming sector already supports 333 licensed betting offices and five casinos, employs 2,093 people and contributes £59.6m in tax and £3.3m in business rates.

THE HARMS CAUSED BY GAMBLING

According to a summary of gambling-related harms published last year by Public Health England (PHE) the harms associated with gambling are wide-ranging to the gamblers, their families, close associates and wider society.

PHE estimates that 0.5% of the population are problem gamblers and 3.8% are at risk. The North East has the highest proportion of at-risk gamblers with 4.9%.

The industry generated profits of £14.2bn in the UK in 2020 according to PHE.

An NHS clinic to treat gambling addicts opened in Sunderland in 2020. Consultant psychologist Matthew Gaskell from the NHS Northern Gambling Service said at the time: “Gambling addiction is a new public health crisis. It’s causing serious harm to thousands of people including] mental health problems, serious debt, breakdown of relationships, loss of employment, crime, homelessness and sometimes suicide. However, the chances of recovery from addictions like problem gambling can be very good with proper treatment.’

The BGC said: ‘Contrary to the impression given by those who would radically tighten gambling laws in the UK, BGC members are generally at the forefront of the debate about how to increase protections in an industry that has rapidly evolved with the emergence of new technologies. They are championing an approach which seeks to be responsible both to vulnerable customers who need more protection, but also to the communities and sports who are sustained by the economic contribution and investment the sector brings.