MANCHESTER: Foreign-owned betting firms that sponsor English Premier League football clubs are failing in their duty to pay into a fund for treating people with gambling addiction, according to the head of the National Health Service (NHS).

Speaking at the annual NHS Expo conference in Manchester, Simon Stevens said that eight out of nine betting firm sponsors have not contributed to the charity GambleAware, which requires £10m to help gambling addicts, the Guardian reported.

There are an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK and Stevens warned that it should not be left to the NHS to “pick up the pieces” of the new threat posed by compulsive gambling.

“There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems,” he said. “Doctors report that two-thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help, and the NHS does offer specialist treatment.

“But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning. Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces. The health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.”

Foreign betting firms that have not made a donation this financial year include Fun88, the sponsors of Newcastle United, and SportPesa (Everton), leading Stevens to warn Premier League clubs that they must do more to persuade sponsors to “do the right thing” and pay their dues.

GambleAware supported his comments and a spokesman for the charity said: “With nearly half the clubs in the Premier League, and over two-thirds of the Championship sponsored by gambling companies, we are seriously concerned the relationship between sport and gambling has reached a tipping point.

“There is a real risk gambling advertising and sponsorships are normalising gambling for children. We welcome the call from NHS England for gambling companies, wherever they are based, to contribute more to treating problem gambling.”

In response to the criticism, the Remote Gambling Association, which represents online betting firms, said it agreed that more funding is needed if the industry is to fulfil its responsibilities and that it supports the principle of a statutory levy on companies.

Sourced from the Guardian; additional content by WARC staff