BGC claims SMF economic report uses ‘fantasy figures’ on spend substitution

By | March 10, 2021

A report suggesting that the economy would be better off if fewer people spent money on gambling has been given the short shrift by the Betting and Gaming Council as the battle for parliamentary hearts and minds intensifies ahead of the review of the UK’s gambling laws.

The report – entitled ‘Double or nothing? Assessing the economic impact of gambling – has been published by the Social Market Foundation, which describes itself as a cross-party think tank which acknowledges anti-betting campaigner Derek Webb amongst its benefactors. 

The report suggests that the economy would be better off if people didn’t spend their money on gambling activities, but instead, transferred that spend to food and retail goods as they have higher ‘economic multipliers’.

Other figures in the SMF report suggest that the gambling sector is now a significant part of the UK economy. In 2019, the gross value added (GVA) of the gambling industry was £8bn, up 45% since 2010. Gambling’s share of UK economic output increased from 0.3% to 0.4%, however, it directly contributes 0.6% of central government revenues, with about £4.3b going to the Exchequer. 

Scott Corfe, Research Director at the Social Market Foundation, called for the Treasury to conduct its own analysis: “Sensible reform of gambling regulation could reduce the societal costs of problem gambling and realise economic gains.

“To achieve that, the Government should commission an urgent review of the social and economic costs of gambling, commencing in 2021 and concluding in line with the timeframe of the Gambling Act Review. No final decisions on legislative review should be made until the Treasury has conducted an assessment of the economic and social costs of each policy change.”

Led by political strategist James Kirkup, SMF brands itself as an independent think tank working on public policies to improve social welfare and mobility.  SMF maintains that it holds no political partiality, having formally advised Conservative and Labour governments. 

However, Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, claimed that the figures in the report were little more than ‘fantasy’ and that depressing gambling activity would not have the benefits suggested by the Social Market Foundation report. 

 “If people were restricted from betting in the regulated industry, they would simply migrate to the growing unlicensed, unsafe black market that employs no one, pays no tax and contributes nothing to UK plc. To think otherwise is, at best, naive.

 “It’s disappointing but unsurprising that anti-gambling prohibitionists seek to deliberately downplay the economic contribution the industry makes, just because they don’t like the industry. They should stop looking down their noses at the people who enjoy a bet or who work in the industry.”