A BMJ study says the UK needs a tax on gambling

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A study published in the British Medical Journal says the UK has to implement a new form of a levy on the gambling industry, The Guardian reports. What’s wrong with all the taxes it’s paying already? Let’s find out.

The gambling problem

There are plenty of problems with gambling in the UK. For starters, there are over 550,000 people addicted to gambling, and only one NHS clinic dedicated to the issue.

The numbers of minors addicted to gambling is also staggering. Over 55,000 people between 11 and 16 are hooked.

Problem gambling can lead people to surprisingly stupid decisions. They can drive themselves in debt, trying to win back the money they’ve lost. They can start stealing, especially if they’re a kid.

The worst thing of all, problem gambling is tied to suicide. Problem gamblers are 15 times more susceptible to it than the overall population.

The solution

Such a dire problem requires an immediate solution. The researchers propose to institute a levy on the industry. Take 0.1% of the turnover and direct it to fuel the research and prevention of problem gambling.

Given the size of the UK gambling industry, that’s over £14 million a year. Surely, it’s a good solution for a country ridden with gambling problems. Or is it?

Fear mongering for a budget

The truth is, the UK is already spending enough on problem gambling. Some estimates say the burden gambling-related problems pose on the NHS is as high as £260 million a year. With such a sum, what another £14 million are going to achieve?

Another thing to consider that there are dozens of NGOs that help people with gambling addiction. Bigger ones like GamCare treat up to 10,000 people a year.

Most NGOs are either funded by the government or supported by licensed casinos themselves.

Gamblers are already very much protected, and more is done to support them every day. Why add another 0.1% to the budget, if it’s holding up just fine?

This suggestion may be simply misguided, or the authors want fundings for their research.

Is this the right solution?

The authors of this paper in the British Medical Journal were eager to say that gambling addiction is a big issue. But did they ask what the cause of the problem is?

The thing is, gambling is very much like many other things that form an addiction. Alcohol isn’t bad in and of itself, but you can get hooked. Yet billions of people drink and are not considered alcoholics. They don’t drink their lives away and continue with their lives just fine.

Why? Because it’s not about alcohol or gambling. People who have depression are more likely to form an addiction, whether it’s to video games, casino games, or alcohol.

With 20% of the UK minors suffering from depression, it’s no wonder they gamble so much. The problem with addiction is more complex than what this study says it is and can’t be solved with a tax.

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