Gambling Harm Cost Estimated at £1.27 billion
A report has been commissioned by Public Health England regarded the alleged cost to society of gambling-related harm. The agency attached to the government’s Department of Health has estimated that cost at a staggering £1.27 billion.
What the PHE Report Aimed to Find Out
PHE’s report was intended to understand more the real effect gambling has as a public health issue, along with the extent of gambling-related harm.
To achieve this, the report posed six questions covering the pervasiveness of gambling harm across varying demographics, along with its associated harm to non-gamblers such as family members. It also looked into the risks of gambling-related harm alongside the socioeconomic load it places on society.
The report also aimed to discover any industry stakeholder views on such harms while ultimately asking about the impact that the COVID-19 has had on gambling harm around the country.
While aiming to measure the cost of gambling-related harm to wider society, Public Health England revealed that 95% confidence intervals for the cost were some £841 million on the lower side and £2.12 billion on the upper side. The most likely estimate, therefore, it said, was £1.27 billion.
Where the Costs Come From
Public Health England has also stated that more than half the estimated cost, to the tune of £647.2 million, comes as a direct cost to the government.
Of this amount, £342.2 million was due to the physical and mental health costs attributed, owing to the resources needed to tackle mental health problems, depression, suicide and drug use.
Around £162 million in government costs was pinned on criminal activity, based apparently on nearly 3,800 people being imprisoned for gambling-related offences when the report was published.
Financial harms listed in the report were responsible for £62.8 million of the overall cost, relating mostly to homelessness, while the cost of education and employment harm was given as £79.5 million.
The leftover £619.2 million was listed as intangible, with all related mental and physical health impacts from gambling taken into account.
What Commercial and Non-Commercial Stakeholders Say
The PHE report also looked into the differences in views of gambling harm between those in the industry and those who have either experienced it or have worked to prevent or treat it.
Among those working within the industry, more were likely to answer that causes of gambling-related harm were complex and could be attributed to a natural tendency towards addictive behaviour.
Those not in the industry but experiencing gambling problems were more likely to answer that gambling products and gambling environments were the reason for their harms. Naturally, there is little surprise in those answers.
Industry people, or commercial stakeholders, were also more likely to answer when questioned that the better solution to gambling-related harm is to give individual treatment and intervention, while those playing or affected tended to believe that changes to the whole system were needed.
Given that we could have predicted that those within the industry and those without would hand the blame to each other, the answers on this study were fully expected and didn’t on their own help us to move forward.
There is absolutely no doubt that safe gambling is the aim of us all. But, putting a financial cost on gambling-related harm without balancing that with the positive cost to society owing to jobs, taxation, and even horse racing levy to keep the sport going is a little redundant.