The annual wrangle over "voluntary" contributions by major British gambling groups to the Responsibility in Gambling Trust entered a critical phase as the new year started, with Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, reportedly losing patience with the gambling industry after the emergence of a GBP 1.2 million shortfall in donations for 2008-09.
The Independent reported that currently, 80 percent of the donations given to the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT) come from just 30 major donors, who apparently account for 95 percent of UK gambling turnover.
A Whitehall source told the newspaper that a compulsory donation system was in process, commenting: "This move
will secure the future of problem gambling treatment and will ensure that all operators pay their way. Discussions continuing on the voluntary route have so far fallen short of the mark and now is the time to get this sorted one way or another."
Small, on-course bookmakers will not be included in the compulsory donation system. A bookmaker with one shop will have to donate between GBP180 and GBP300 a year. Big national chains will be asked for a six-figure sum. There are between 250 000 and 300 000 problem gamblers in Britain, and a further 1.25 million "at risk", the newspaper claimed.
Gambling operators have 12 weeks while a consultation takes place to save themselves from the statutory system by agreeing a voluntary deal, but a Whitehall source said the situation was now urgent.
"The prospect of a voluntary agreement is still on the cards if the industry can give satisfactory guarantees. But the clock is now ticking."
Protesting the government ultimatum, Russ Phillips, the chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers said: "We are being singled out for some sort of special treatment. We must not assume that gambling outlets have special privileges protecting them from the credit crunch. The whole industry has been hit and we have to be realistic about how much can be raised."
The RIGT chairman, the Conservative MP John Greenway, took a different view, welcoming the government's pressure. "This will provide much-needed clarity to the gambling industry as to what it faces under a statutory system," he said.
The Guardian reported that gambling operators will be forced to pay a levy to fund the treatment of problem gambling under government proposals due to be published later this week in a consultation phase. The newspaper suggested that the document will suggest the imposition of a statutory levy on all gambling operators, with different rates of contributions set according to the size of the company.
The Responsibility in Gambling Trust was established as a charity in response to recommendations made by the independent Gambling Review Body in the Budd report commissioned by the government in 2001.
The report called on the gambling industry to contribute to an independent trust to fund research and limit problem gambling.
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