Gaming technology and software solutions provider the NRM Group has become the latest industry name to warn against the ‘unintended consequences’ should the government introduce a 1 percent statutory levy to replace the current RET contributions voluntary model. NRM managing director Andrew Ludlow, who has worked in the land-based gaming sector for over three decades told Coinslot: “Despite reported leaks in the Sunday papers suggesting the government is not convinced by a statutory levy  I think it’s incredibly important for the industry to be crystal clear about the consequences should the sceptics be swayed by the arguments of bodies such as the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, the all-party parliamentary group for gambling related harm, and Peers for Gambling Reform.”

He continued: “The imposition of a flat rate across all of the various gambling verticals belies a very basic lack of knowledge of the industry, how it works and the pressures that it is under. The land-based sector is only just beginning to emerge from a 2-year Covid enforced shutdown during which revenues came to a shuddering halt. With consumer-facing hospitality businesses shuttered for long periods being the first sector to close due to Covid and the last to re-open, the extended supply chain was brought to a complete and for many enterprises a fatal standstill. Those businesses that have managed to come out the other side of the pandemic are just beginning the long and difficult process of recovery which has been compounded by close to double digit inflation, sky-rocketing business costs, labour shortages and the cost-of-living crisis. The prospect of a statutory 1 percent levy, even if it’s graduated would delay the rehabilitation of thousands of SME’s in the supply chain and disproportionately impact land-based gambling operators.”

A strong advocate of the industry’s responsibilities in terms of safer gambling, Ludlow believes the current voluntary system of RET contributions is effective and one that has made an important contribution to the reduction in problem gambling to a record low of 0.2 percent a figure that is ahead of many European countries. He confirmed: “Listening to the debate on the introduction of a ‘Statutory Gambling Levy’ led by Carolyn Harris MP in the House (Tuesday, 7th June) I agree that operators do have a duty to contribute to safer gambling – a contribution that’s in addition to the £3bn that the industry pays in tax: but what I cannot agree with is her argument that being able to determine which safer gambling organisation our contributions go to means, and I quote  ‘that the voluntary system allows the gambling industry to retain a sense of control over the funding’  in the process undermining ‘…the independence of the service providers, academic institutions and other third-party recipients of funding, as well as the effectiveness of the levy in reducing wider gambling harms in the UK.’ 

“Industry colleagues that I have spoken with share my fear that the worst thing that could happen for those of us that really care about reducing further the incidence of safer gambling is for funding to be centralised. It’s no accident that problem gambling is at its lowest ever level in the UK down from 0.6 percent to 0.2 percent in just 18-months: rather it’s due to the hard-work and professionalism of a range of safer gambling charities and the effective support they receive from the industry.  There is a real danger that a statutory levy administered by a bloated bureaucracy and driven by dogma would put a handbrake on what has been achieved. It’s clear that one size does not fit all and having a choice of safer gambling charities to support with their own specialisms is a huge positive and has helped enormously in tackling problem gambling.”