Dr. Tom Coffey, the health advisor for the Mayor of London, spoke at a meeting of the London Assembly Health Committee on November 29th, emphasizing the need for a national definition of harmful gambling. The focus of the meeting was on the impact of harmful gambling on Londoners.
Assembly member Emma Best asked Coffey why Mayor Sadiq Kahn had not yet implemented his commitment to restrict gambling advertisements on Transport for London (TFL) services. Kahn had promised to ban these ads on the London underground as part of his re-election campaign in April 2021.
Coffey explained that the absence of a definition for harmful gambling was a key factor in this decision. He compared this to Kahn’s successful ban on junk food ads on TFL in February 2019, which was based on a nationally accepted consensus of what constitutes high fat, high sugar, and high salt foods.
Coffey stated that the Mayor’s office had initiated the process of defining harmful gambling and had asked the government and public health partners to develop this definition. He emphasized the need for a definition that would resist legal challenges and ensure an evidence-based decision.
During the meeting, Coffey also mentioned that he had observed an increase in issues related to gambling harm, with affected family members seeking help more often than the person experiencing harm directly.
Sian Griffiths, deputy chair at GambleAware, highlighted the harm on affected others, particularly children, due to gambling. She stressed the positive effect of restricting gambling ads, especially on children, citing the decision not to advertise during football matches as an example.
Marguerite Regan, head of gambling at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, noted a disparity between the number of Londoners participating in gambling and those seeking harmful gambling support. She highlighted the upcoming release of statistics showing a higher average of Londoners requiring support and treatment compared to the national average despite lower participation rates.
In conclusion, the meeting brought attention to the urgent need for a national definition of harmful gambling and the impact it has on Londoners, particularly on children and affected family members. It also emphasized the importance of evidence-based decisions to resist legal challenges and ensure effective support and treatment for those affected by harmful gambling.