These vastly profitable businesses cause pain as well as pleasure. Ministers should seize the opportunity to step in

The enormously profitable gambling industry has been on notice for some time. Amid mounting evidence of the severe problems that its products can cause, with hundreds of gambling-linked suicides every year, the government launched a review of current laws in 2020. A white paper tabling its proposals for change is expected soon. Industry lobbyists have spent the intervening period doing all that they can to soften the expected blows to their business model, while campaigners, including bereaved families, have argued for a regulatory framework that takes human frailty into account. Evidence suggests it is the latter who have the public’s support, with one survey showing that three-quarters of adults favour restrictions on gambling adverts.

A report from the Social Market Foundation co-authored by Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, should stiffen reformers’ resolve. It makes the case for a new board funded by a statutory industry levy, to oversee national efforts to reduce gambling-related harm. Currently, voluntary contributions from gambling businesses – which between them are responsible for around £11bn of annual losses by gamblers – are funnelled through a charity, GambleAware. But this activity is poorly integrated with other NHS services, and suffers from a lack of research and evaluation.

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