|Critics of the forthcoming liberalisation of gambling laws in the UK say the reforms are likely to lead to an increase in problem gambling.|
But only if it is not handled properly, others argue.
The Budd report, which supported the forthcoming liberalisation of gambling in the UK, itself conceded: 'We accept that this is likely to lead to an increase in problem gambling...'
The report found that problem gambling was far more widespread in Australia, Canada and other countries where deregulation had already taken place. In Australia's case, the level is now more than twice as high as in the UK.
The number of gambling addicts in Britain is currently between 275,000 and 370,000.
GamCare, a counselling service for gambling addicts who take money from the gambling industry, and had to break away from Gamblers Anonymous for that reason, broadly welcomes the government’s liberalisation, although they oppose some specific measures, such as allowing alcohol on gaming floors.
Some believe the government has been tempted by the prospect of raising extra taxes. It is no coincidence, they point out, that the man who headed the committee appointed to look into deregulation, Sir Alan Budd, used to be the chief economic adviser at the Treasury.
Paul Bellringer, director of GamCare, says the changes can be achieved without significantly raising the number of problem gamblers if it is properly handled, with political will, commitment from the industry, careful management and sufficient resources allocated to treatment and research.
But he warns: 'If we don't do any one of these things, we will end up like Australia.'