Betting firms who sponsor Premier League football clubs have been criticised by the chief executive of NHS England for apparently ignoring the industry’s duty to help Britain’s estimated 430,000 problem gamblers.
Simon Stevens castigated foreign-owned betting companies for not contributing to a £10m fund which pays for addicts’ treatment while leaving the already overburdened health service to “pick up the pieces” from gambling-related mental ill health.
Eight firms whose names adorn Premier League teams’ shirts are reportedly refusing to pay up, said Stevens in an address at his organisation’s annual NHS Expo in Manchester. Those not paying their share were abdicating their responsibilities towards people harmed by betting, he added.
Stevens urged the Premier League, which runs England’s elite football competition, to step in and advise firms which are not paying into the fund to rethink their stance and start doing so.
“There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems,” he said. “Doctors report that two-thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help, and the NHS does offer specialist treatment.
“But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning. Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces. The health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.”
He told his audience of NHS staff and bosses that while the service had recently opened in London its first clinic dedicated to treatment of gambling addicts, some firms were not contributing towards the £10m which is meant to be raised to fund the work of the charity GambleAware.Gambling Commission rules oblige firms to help pay for its activities.
NHS England plans to work with the Premier League “on how we persuade these foreign gambling companies to do the right thing,” he added.