The UK’s biggest gambling firms have agreed to contribute more money to fund treatment for problem gamblers.
The owners of William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair, Skybet and Bet 365 will increase their voluntary levy on gambling profits from 0.1% to 1% up to 2023 – a contribution of £60m.
It will be “a step change” in how they tackle addiction, the firms claimed.
It comes amid criticism of the industry on how little it spends to help addicts compared with its marketing budget.
Earlier this month, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens warned betting firms could be taxed to pay for addiction treatment.
Mr Stevens condemned the “fraction” spent by industry on helping those struggling with addiction, compared with the amount spent on advertising and marketing.
The companies said cumulatively they would spend £100m on treatment over the next four years.
Last month, when the BBC broke the news of the plans, a source said the industry had to act: “The industry is on a precipice – if we don’t get ahead of this, we will end up where the alcohol industry was 10 years ago, and tobacco 30 years ago.
“The fear is that we face a ban on touchline advertising or football shirt sponsorship.”
Peter Jackson, chief executive of Flutter Entertainment – the holding company name for Paddy Power Betfair – said the agreement marked “an unprecedented level of commitment and collaboration by the leading companies in the British betting and gaming sector to address gambling-related harm”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We think that is an important step to make.
“We do think we need to increase the amount of money that is available to protect the young and vulnerable.”
The five firms have also agreed to increase safer gambling messages in their adverts and review the “tone and content” of their marketing and sponsorship material.
The Gambling Commission estimates there are 430,000 people with a serious gambling addiction in the UK. If you include those they deem at risk of addiction, the number rises to more than two million.
Of these, around 55,000 are children and young people aged 11 to 16.