Horse racing is one of the most popular sports on which to gamble. Above: The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Kirk’s Faith Impact Forum. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Helen Silvis
The Church of Scotland has joined other Churches and charities across the UK in urging the UK Government to act now to prevent the harm caused by gambling.
In their submissions to the UK Government’s Review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the Churches are calling on the Government to treat gambling regulation as a public health issue.
The Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Kirk’s Faith Impact Forum said: “The harms of gambling have increased dramatically since the 2005 Gambling Act was passed, with the introduction of online gambling and other developments which were not anticipated 15 years ago. That is why we are calling on the UK Government to work with the Scottish Government to act decisively and urgently to tackle these harms.
“We are asking for gambling advertising to banned or substantially reduced, along with greater protections for children. The Government should also require the gambling industry to pay for treatment, independent research, education and awareness campaigns that highlight gambling-related harm.”
The Churches and Christian charities have issued a joint statement ahead of the consultation deadline next week:
“Gambling related harms affect families, communities, colleagues and friends as well as individuals, and can cause mental and physical ill health, indebtedness, family breakdown and most tragically may even result in suicide.
“These harms simply cannot be tackled by focusing on individuals’ gambling habits or relying on individual organisations to provide solutions. Instead the devolved and UK Governments must adopt a public health approach to prevent harm and address population level risks.
“One area where this is urgently needed is remote gambling. The extent of internet gambling or advertising was barely imagined when the 2005 Act was passed. It is a more complex environment with people able to gamble almost anywhere and at any time.
“Government needs to use this opportunity to require the gambling industry to implement measures, such as caps on expenditure or losses with the aim of reducing risks of gambling-related harm.
“As Churches and charities, we have all expressed a particular concern for children, teenagers and young adults, who are especially vulnerable to the harms caused by gambling. We are calling for gambling advertising to be dramatically reduced or banned altogether, and for unethical marketing practices to be identified and prevented.
“We have all welcomed plans to increase the age limit on the National Lottery, called for this to be extended across all lottery products, and for an end to the anomaly that children are still allowed to gamble on Category D gaming machines.
“Gambling is an adult activity, and a regulated industry must not be allowed to entice or market to children, or to provide any gambling products for them.
We have also reiterated calls for the UK Government to use the powers given in the 2005 Act to introduce a compulsory levy on the industry to pay for the treatment of gambling related harm, independent research and preventative measures, including education and public awareness campaigns.
“It is not acceptable that so many charities and organisations providing help and support still have to rely on gambling industry donations.
“As Churches and charities, we urge Government to act immediately to prevent further gambling related harm.
“The UK Government is only seeking evidence at this stage, and action on any of these issues may be left for many months even years. In the meantime, more children, young adults, families and others will suffer harm and damage. Our society cannot afford to delay.”
The Church of Scotland
The Baptist Union of Great Britain
The Church of England
The Methodist Church
The United Reformed Church
The Evangelical Alliance
Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs
CARE (https://care.org.uk/ )