Fri, 24 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Press releases

Fantasy and reality: a 'World Regulatory Briefing' & Panorama on FOBTs

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling writes ahead of a BBC Panorama programme on 12th September, which investigates why fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) machines are so addictive four years after the same programme first brought the issue to light.

On Thursday 8th September, paying £749 would get you into a World Regulatory Briefing, with drinks in the OXO Tower included. Sounds impressive, but it is not about anti-terrorism, or climate change or global economics. It is a talking head roadshow for advocating “responsible” gambling to influence the political agenda.

One of the speakers is Graham Weir, Head of Responsible Gaming at Ladbrokes, a betting operator that according to recent media reports has shown scant regard toward the welfare of their staff as detailed in the four stories below:

  1. Ladbrokes staff raped and killed as firm saves millions of pounds by forcing staff to work alone
  2. The big gamble: the dangerous world of British betting shops
  3. Gambling on safety - tales from behind the counter
  4. Ladbrokes denies lack of security for workers after masked gun raid

Additionally, Ladbrokes are currently in litigation against two of their former whistleblowing employees, Bill Bennett and Barry Philips, who each have impeccable credentials and career histories. The Campaign believes that Ladbrokes has decided to engage in a campaign of victimisation against them in an attempt to destroy their credibility, rather than let the truths about staff safety, FOBT danger and addiction become public.

The murder of a manager and the attempted murder of another employee were both committed by FOBT gamblers after losses on the machines in Ladbrokes shops which backs up reports that FOBTs are more associated with disordered gambling than any other gambling activity. Criminal damage to FOBTs by frustrated gamblers, the strongest indicator of disordered gambling, has been kept hidden as the not-fit-for-purpose Gambling Commission is unwilling to recognise this as “association of gambling and crime”.

Research published just this week provides evidence of the link between gambling and violence particularly for men. Revealed in The Times and the Daily Mail, researchers at Lincoln University noted that around half of pathological gamblers and problem gamblers had been in fights in the last 5 years.

On Monday 12th September at 8.30pm on BBC 1, Panorama will be asking the question, “Why are gambling machines addictive”? A BBC summary of what to expect from the programme can be found below:

Wendy Bendel's partner killed himself after struggling with a 20-year gambling addiction. In a confession he wrote to Wendy, he singled out the high-stakes, high-frequency fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) found in bookmakers across the UK.

Wendy embarks on a journey to find out what it is about the design of the machines that makes them so addictive and sees evidence that they can affect the brains of long-term gamblers.

She discovers the billions they generate has divided the industry, with former insiders now accusing the bookies of putting profits before people.

For Karen Bradley MP and Tracey Crouch MP, the DCMS Ministers responsible for gaming machines, they would be well advised to watch this feature. Imagine how much Wendy has been through and then draw the contrast with the “responsible” talking heads who seek to avoid any debate about the importance of accessibility, product and content in understanding gambling behaviour.

It is four years since Panorama first brought FOBTs to light – filming under cover in high street betting shops and four years on little has changed. There are now 1,300 more FOBTs and player losses are up £155 million to £1.7 billion.

Will Panorama be the final key to getting Government to agree with the Sustainable Communities Act proposal to reduce FOBT stakes from £100 to £2 per spin? Or is Government content to listen to the “responsible” gambling fantasists and risk a legal challenge by breaching their obligation under the Act to try to reach an agreement?

PoliticsHome Newsletters

Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.