The betting industry has threatened to redirect a quarter of the funds expected to go to a charity tackling harms caused by gambling, the Guardian understands.
The four largest members of the Betting and Gaming Council have in the past pledged to use GambleAware as the main commissioner of any money it gave to tackle problems caused by its activities.
But sources at GambleAware said the charity was informed in recent weeks by BGC that in future, 25% of funds would be kept back to distribute directly to projects chosen by Bet365, Flutter Entertainment, GVC Holdings and William Hill.
The industry-funded charity currently chooses how money is spent to tackle gambling harm – whether that is on research, education and prevention work, or treatment. In its last funding announcement in 2020, the BGC pledged to use GambleAware as the main commissioning agent to spend £100m over four years to 2024 on projects it chose.
The BGC said its position had not changed and that it will have given them £110m by 2024, but sources at GambleAware said there had been a significant shift in plans for how further money tackling industry harm would be spent.
The former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “The fact that the BGC are taking a unilateral decision to redirect 25% of future funds away from GambleAware to fund its own chosen causes could not set out more clearly why a statutory levy to fund research, education and treatment is absolutely essential.
“This racket of the gambling industry deciding when, how much and now where money is spent to deal with the harm it causes simply has to end.”
The threat comes as a government white paper on gambling is expected early this year. Those close to negotiations over its contents say No 10 is actively considering introducing a statutory levy on the industry, which would force firms to pay a certain amount into an independently – run central fund that could commission services.
It is understood the statutory levy was off the table under Liz Truss, but Rishi Sunak is now considering it, which is the reason for the delay.
The gambling industry pays a voluntary levy to fund research, education and treatment (RET), but experts believe the rate needs to be legally binding. Gambling licences are conditional on making an annual contribution but according to analysis by GambleAware last year, the recommended rate of 0.1% of gross gambling yield had never been met. The industry disputes this.
The Labour peer Hilary Armstrong, who sits on the board of GambleAware, said: “I understand that for the next three years, the proposal of the gambling companies is that they very much want a voluntary levy to continue and that about a quarter of what they will give, they will decide themselves which organisations they’re going to support, rather than putting it through GambleAware. So there’s no accountability. And there’s no transparency around, you know, how this money is spent, and whether it is effective.”
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