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For British and American Gambling Policymakers – ignore the Billionaire Bookmakers and the Reform Opponents on Twitter

Credit: Adobe

Derek Webb, Founder

Derek Webb, Founder | Campaign for Fairer Gambling

3 min read Partner content

Founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, Derek Webb, makes the case for urgent betting reform in British horseracing.

My initial Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) focused on British Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the most addictive form of land-based gambling, introduced illegally by bookmakers, an unregulated sector, prior to the 2005 Gambling Act.

The 2019 FOBT stake reduction was a successful harm reduction measure. It resulted in gambler losses decreasing by around £750 million in a year, with no major crossover to other gambling losses, a 40% reduction in police callouts to betting shops and a reduction of 65% in FOBT main activity reporting by National Gambling Treatment Services clients.

Campaign opponents attributed false motives to me claiming that I would financially benefit from restrictions to FOBTs. The now defunct Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and Malcolm George, an ABB executive, had libel proceedings issued against them by my associate, Matt Zarb-Cousin. The ABB and Mr. George apologized to Matt for the error and distress caused and Matt agreed to accept that apology, plus costs and damages to conclude that litigation.

However, some opposing gambling reforms, particularly the affordability proposals, have revisited the same dirty tricks of publishing false and defamatory statements. To restate the record, I ceased receiving any income from gambling with a final asset sale in 2011. That sale debt was paid over several years, with payments unrelated to game performance, as evidenced by public documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission – and as I later explained in three articles published in PoliticsHome.

Decades ago, I played poker in a game run by John Banks, a giant of bookmaking. Today his son Geoff Banks tweets and retweets comments about me, gambling reformers and those harmed by gambling, including the bereaved. Andrew Rhodes, head of the Gambling Commission, recently explained how disappointed he was in the Twitter discourse and how political, conflicted and toxic gambling is.

The future of horseracing is not best served by association with these alleged Twitter “supporters”. Bookmakers steer gamblers away from race betting onto the more addictive shop machines and the more addictive remote in-play sports betting. They also close accounts and restrict wager amounts from competent race bettors.

Recently the Racing Post promoted a Twitter survey conducted on behalf of the British Horseracing Authority and the Horseracing Bettors Forum. The full responses are unpublished, but the Racing Post commentary focused on opposition to “intrusive” affordability controls, but failed to mention “intrusive” withdrawal controls. This survey is not representative of the 99.9% of horserace bettors losing over £1 billion per year.

Fairer Gambling invited the Racing Post to publish a response to the survey claims, but as anticipated the Racing Post declined. Many of the respondents to the survey could be in the self-serving income-generating Twitter community of affiliates, tipsters, arbitragers, bonus-hunters, “traders”, trading advisors and denigrators of reform advocates.

During the upcoming gambling review white paper consultations the government, represented by DCMS, and the Gambling Commission need to focus on real evidence, and ignore surveys where the full results are not published.     

I personally oppose bet restriction in principle and advocate that a bet should be accepted to win up to a certain permitted amount, to be agreed with DCMS and the Gambling Commission. I personally support harm prevention, including prevention of financial harm to the financially vulnerable and therefore support the affordability concept in principle.

I have restarted my Campaign for Fairer Gambling as a gambling reform entity primarily in America. My associates there cannot comprehend how British horseracing has become so compromised and so tied to promoting the interests of billionaire bookmakers.   

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is funded by Derek Webb LLC

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