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A Westminster talking shop forgetting to listen to the elephant!

Derek Webb | Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

Campaign for Fairer Gambling founder Derek Webb criticises a recent event to discuss gambling policy which failed to address the issue of addiction to fixed odds betting terminals.

‘The UK gambling sector: market developments, regulation and the impact of Brexit’ was the title of a recent Westminster eForum event. Not one parliamentarian was in the audience and the Chair for the ‘Senior Parliamentarian’ was filled by Jason Chase of Wiggins, one of several lawyers speaking at the event.

Mr Chase said he was astonished at the level of ignorance of Clive Efford MP, previously a Shadow DCMS spokesman covering gambling policy, but also stated that Philip Davies was the only MP who knew anything about gambling. As all parliamentarians know, Mr Davies knows how to promote the interests of the bookies, but then that is the business that Mr Chase is also in.  With legal caveats on present scenarios why would anyone want to listen to their future opining?

The Senet Group Chair and Independent Standards Commissioner, Wanda Goldwag spoke about the ‘Latest on tackling problem gambling’. Wanda - why not start a ‘DONT GAMBLE’ campaign? Silly question though - the Senet Group is not independent, it is funded by the bookies and the ‘standards’ are set by the bookies. Their ‘standards’ include not disclosing the levels of violence in betting shops by FOBT addicts. How can problem gambling be ‘tackled’ if there is no acknowledgement of the serious causation of violence because of FOBT addiction?

Another speaker was Steve Donoughue, who has acted as a bookies’ consultant and is the secretariat of the APPG on Betting and Gaming, chaired by Mr Davies. At a previous talking shop run by another body, Mr Donoughue showed how much he really cared by expressing that the “unbanked” would be denied adequate gambling opportunities if FOBT stakes were reduced.

He claimed that FOBTs were the "fart going around Westminster". Most Parliamentarians would probably look at Mr Donoughue & Mr Davies, and using their senses have a contrary opinion.  Mr Donoughue got a lot of heads nodding in this audience as he lambasted politicians for not agreeing with him. He described me personally as a vindictive businessman. He must think that executives in remote gambling and bookmaking have a fragrant aroma and are paragons of virtue.

It seems Mr Donoghue is on the same page as Gary Follis of The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) who in order to try and denigrate me, wrote to a journalist recently, referencing my old political contributions, my old shares in a casino supply company and my logical recommendations regarding casinos from a 2011 consultation. None of which has anything to do with the FOBT facts.

Mr Follis rose to be an adviser to Ed Balls but now he has descended to dancing with wolves dressed in sheep's clothing. As an Ethical Standards Officer in Lambeth ruled, "Mr Follis had brought his office and authority into disrepute."

Speaker Warwick Bartlett of Global Gaming Business Consultants has previously served with the ABB and now markets expensive reports to the remote gambling sector from his offshore entity. Mr Bartlett shouted out for his subscribers, being critical of this campaign, the APPG which recommended the FOBT stake reduction and those in the gaming sector who support that APPG.

In communication with one of those supporters, when asked about a murder of a Ladbrokes manager by a FOBT addict and attempted murder and serious sexual assault on another Ladbrokes lone staffer by another FOBT addict, he responded:

"There has been an increase in crime in general in those areas and these stories are from disgruntled employees"

Denial of the horrors of the rage that FOBT addicts can reach and the consequences suffered as a result are par for the course for the predatory bookies and their parasitic associates.

Where were the people who must be listened to, the LGA and Newham Council with the Sustainable Communities Act proposal for FOBT stake reduction to £2? Perhaps they were invited but knew there was no purpose in attending such a biased event?

The demand for FOBT stake reduction was the elephant in the room. It has not been cared for and has been around for so long that you could think it was a woolly mammoth. But if a £2 maximum is denied, the keepers at DCLG and DCMS will not have exercised an appropriate duty of care. They will be facing the charges of a very wild elephant and a herd of sympathizers!

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Read the most recent article written by Derek Webb - Parent company of FOBT supplier loses over $315 million in anti-monopoly lawsuit