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'Bookies' luck has run out' – a senior minister

Derek Webb | Campaign for Fairer Gambling

3 min read Partner content

Derek Webb, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling founder, shares his latest thoughts as DCMS prepares to review fixed odds betting terminal policy.

The above headline was part of The Times' story last week – “Gambling adverts face ban from daytime TV”. I was personally honoured by The Times to be invited to write the iconic Thunderer comment that day, as the Campaign has become recognised as the go-to authority on understanding FOBT issues. Regular readers might recall that after the appointment of Karen Bradley to DCMS, our forecast was that the Prime Minister would want to look at TV gambling advertising.

The bookies have been stunned into silence as news of the impending review starts to sink in and the Chinese Wall of denial they have built through the Senet Group and trade body lobbying is collapsing like paper in inclement weather.

They must have thought they had Osborne in the bag and that Labour would win in 2015, because they hired Malcolm George as the CEO of the Association of British Bookmakers, with his Labour party connections from the Blair years. But after a few drinks at conference, gossip can travel.

Dame Rosie Winterton MP introduced the Senet Group at a Parliamentary event on the pretext that this Group is an upholder of “responsible” gambling standards, rather than just a political firebreak acting in the bookies’ commercial interests.

Michael Dugher MP has previously expressed his support for Mr George. He also tweeted a photograph of himself in Gibraltar, on Independence Day, 6th September.

The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Group (GBGG) is using the EU Court of Justice to claim that Gibraltar remote gambling sites should not pay tax in Britain at the point of consumption. This position is absolute proof of the corporate irresponsibility of this sector.

Ed Miliband made the mistake of not taking a strong enough position on a few issues, one being FOBTs. The problem though was Clive Efford MP, then a DCMS Shadow Minister. Whilst Mr Efford would make all the right noises, he would never commit to a £2 stake, even after the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the local authority which includes his Eltham constituency, did so. But then Mr Efford disclosed to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling that he has previously been wined and dined by Ladbrokes at a Labour party conference.

Whichever party MPs are in, if they spend time advocating for irresponsible predatory corporate sectors, they are inviting themselves to be ostracised by their fellow parliamentarians and maybe even their constituents.  

Mrs May is absolutely correct in her attack on far right libertarianism. Whilst social libertarianism must be welcomed, economic libertarianism has been corrupted by Senet Group style agendas.

The UK needs to get its domestic house in the best economic shape to deliver the best Brexit. Younger generations are less favourable to Brexit and have inferior economic prospects than older generations. The last thing a cohesive society needs is aggressive marketing of addictive gambling to young people to help make rich old white men even wealthier.

Tom Watson MP, a long-time Campaign for Fairer Gambling supporter, is now Shadow DCMS Secretary. If the Government review does not recommend a maximum stake of £2 on FOBTs, then strong opposition is guaranteed. Government must not compromise with the bookies because of fear of legal threats of judicial review.

The Thunderer will roll on. A lightning strike review is imminent. The forecast for the bookies, who have lost their protective layers, is extremely severe conditions.

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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