Trust calls for tax levy to aid its work with problem gamblers

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The Independent Online

Tax revenues should be siphoned off to help fund the battle against problem gambling, according to a leading government body.

Under the proposal, a percentage of the taxes the Government collects from gambling companies would go directly to the Responsibility in Gambling Trust.

Set up five years ago on the recommendation of the Budd Report, which also backed reform of the UK's antiquated gambling laws, the trust funds such charities as GamCare and education and research projects.

It currently gets its money from the gambling industry on a voluntary basis but has so far struggled to raise the sums it needs. Its chairman, John Greenway MP, said that while some, such as the big bookmakers and online giant PartyGaming, were big donors, others were less forthcoming.

"Some have done nothing at all while others are giving an amount of money that's just derisory," he said. "We're doing our level best to deliver the requirements the Government has put upon us, but we cannot just say 'don't gamble'. That's ridiculous."

A levy would offer a guaranteed income and, said Mr Greenway, "provide real flexibility to react to changing gambling patterns and any increase in problem gambling".

But the plan is likely to prove controversial with both Parliament, which traditionally balks at using tax revenues in such a targeted way, and the industry.

"Compulsory levies are counter-productive," said a PartyGaming spokesman. "They cause animosity and when you go down that route, you're looking at the point of no return."

He also argued that because the industry was so disparate - online gaming companies, for example, are all based overseas, and there are many different tax rates - the scheme would be difficult to implement.

"Financially it would be impossible. The industry needs to recognise its responsibilities and to make value judgements as to where they make their donations. You have got to have control over the money you donate."

The Budd Report said that the Gambling Trust would need funds of £3m a year, but Mr Greenway expects that to rise to around £7m by 2010.

The trust also wants bodies associated with gambling to stump up cash and has written to the Premier League, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Racecourse Association.

A Premier League spokesman said: "We're in discussions with GamCare and [sports minister] Richard Caborn about all these issues. It's an interesting debate and we're formulating a position on it."