Intended for healthcare professionals


Gambling Act review

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: (Published 01 February 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:o248
  1. May C I van Schalkwyk,, NIHR doctoral fellow1,
  2. Jenny Blythe,, NIHR doctoral fellow1,
  3. Martin McKee,, professor of European public health1,
  4. Mark Petticrew,, professor of public health1 2
  1. 1Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2SPECTRUM Consortium, UK
  1. Correspondence to: MCI van Schalkwyk may.vanschalkwyk{at}

A test case for the UK government’s commitment to public health

The UK government is taking a fresh look at gambling. A white paper, expected in spring 2022, will propose an update of the 2005 Gambling Act. This is welcome news: we now know far more about the damage done by gambling in the UK, including financial distress, relationship breakdown, and suicide.123 But this knowledge will translate into meaningful action only if the new law recognises that the contemporary gambling landscape is a threat to public health.4 We set out three tests that a truly public health focused law, based on principles of equity, collective responsibility, and human rights,5 should meet.

Public health focus

First, the law should consider all gambling related harms on the population. Current responses to the potential for harm, mostly industry funded, characterise gambling as just another leisure activity offering “fun,” with any harms affecting only the few who continue to gamble after the fun stops.67

Of course we must support those who enter a vicious downward spiral into destitution, but this ignores the many others who barely avoid this fate and those harmed by another’s gambling. With a looming cost of living crisis, is …

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