Scottish National Party's Ronnie Cowan wants to use unclaimed account balances to fund responsible gaming initiatives
Scottish National Party MP for Inverclyde Ronnie Cowan has taken up a six-year drive started by Liberal Democrat MP Lord Foster to get the UK government interested in commandeering funds left in dormant online gambling player accounts and allocating them to responsible gambling projects.
Cowan reported to the publication Politics Home this week that just prior to Easter he again raised the matter at Prime Minister's Questions, informing David Cameron that public records indicate that there are around 280,000 possibly problem gamblers in the UK.
"I was somewhat encouraged to learn the Prime Minister will be discussing the matter with the Secretary of State for Culture and I have since written to the Prime Minister to hold him to account for what was said at PMQ's," Cowan said, adding that he has also obtained an undertaking from the Treasury that the matter would be investigated.
In 2010 Lord Foster prepared a report on dormant online betting accounts for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, suggesting that money from unclaimed winnings and dormant betting accounts should be used to fund sports improvements.
Dormant betting accounts are those which haven't been touched or utilised by gamblers for years, but could still hold sums of money which punters have forgotten about, possibly due to having multiple betting accounts with different bookmakers or forgetting their log in details.
"Unfortunately, it's difficult to quantify the amounts held in dormant betting accounts as the bookmakers are unprepared to indicate, partly because many of them take the money from dormant accounts and add to their profits," Cowan claims.
"However, the 2010 report highlighted, for the 2009/10 financial year the Tote had unclaimed dividends for pool betting of £944,000. This is only a small example of what monies could be lying unclaimed in betting accounts."
Cowan alleges that since the publication of the 2010 report the government has done little to advance the concept, but he is committed to pushing it through, and has been talking to a number of interested parties and responsible gambling groups to pursue that objective.
"I believe this is too important an issue to pay lip service and strongly urge the Government to claim the money from dormant betting accounts, much like they do with dormant bank accounts. This money should be utilised to support problem gamblers and raise awareness of the issues involved," he says.
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