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Filibustering Philip Davies MP and a FOBT reality check

Derek Webb | Campaign for Fairer Gambling

5 min read Partner content

Campaign for Fairer Gambling founder Derek Webb responds to a recent PoliticsHome article by Philip Davies MP or 'plays the FOBT ball and tackles the MP dribbling behind it'.

Filibustering, Philip Davies MP, penned a piece on PoliticsHome recently declaring that he wanted to “have an honest debate about the reality of FOBTs” and to “challenge those who seek to peddle untruths”. It sounds as though he is advocating for a debate with himself!

From my observations, Mr. Davies is probably the most disliked MP both among his fellow Parliamentarians and the public.  He has been described as the “master of filibustering”, “a friend to rogue landlords” and an enemy of carers, from whom he sought to take away free hospital parking. Filibustering involves him expressing his opinion very loudly without supporting evidence and talking endlessly in order to prevent rational debate. The new terminology for this despicable behaviour should be “Philip blustering”.

His article relates to me personally when he claims that campaigners play the man rather than the ball. It does not mention that when we advertised in the infancy of the Campaign, Mr Davies and the All Party Parliamentary Betting and Gaming Group (APPBGG) of which he is Chair, took the time to object to a Campaign advert. Has this pro-bookie group ever complained about any bookmaker advertising? Bet the answer is no!

Mr Davies, as the Chair of the APPBGG, had the ability to invite me to speak at one of several seminars it is holding this year. I did request to speak but was denied the opportunity.

Mr Davies commends the report by the 2012 Culture Media Sports (CMS) committee, on which he sat, which only had time to visit one betting shop, with the bookies holding their hand, and which irrationally recommended increasing the number of FOBTs per shop. Mr Davies neglects to mention that I asked to be called as an oral witness, but was refused.  

A few years ago I was invited to an Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) dinner with Mr. Davies as guest of honour in order to debate FOBTs. I declined as I do not regard Mr Davies as more honourable than myself and as the IEA is a discredited far right think tank with a pro-corporate bias and hidden funding.

If Mr Davies really wants a FOBT debate, he knows how to advocate for one in the Commons. He also knows how to advance an Early Day Motion (EDM) spelling out whatever he wants to peddle. It would be very useful to identify all the MPs who would be keen enough to sign any EDM in support of FOBTs. 

In his article there is not one link to any source of relevant evidence, no mention of the three licensing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act and no mention of the duties to enforce the objectives that fall on local authorities.

On the Campaign's stand at a Conservative Party Conference a couple of years ago, a young lady from Newham Council was explaining all the local problems including crime associated with betting shops and FOBTs. Mr Davies responded “I don’t believe it”. Honestly Phil?

No wonder Newham Council and nearly 100 other local authorities have asked for a FOBT stake reduction to £2 under the Sustainable Communities Act. If the Government fulfils its SCA obligation to try to accommodate this request in the allotted time, then the FOBT stake could be reduced prior to summer recess. The stake aspect of the debate would then become moot.

Another serious aspect that needs addressing is the culture of violence in betting shops as a consequence of FOBTs. This is unacceptable as it places single working staff in danger. By coincidence on the day of his article, the Guardian featured a very extensive investigation into betting shop crime and staff vulnerability. The week before, his friends at Ladbrokes became embroiled in yet another whistle blower case with claims of culpability in one incident of murder and another of rape.

Just for the record, Mr Davies is opposed to mandatory double-staffing, as is William Hill, which recently insisted they will not change their single-staffing policy until forced to do so by Government. Does this imply that neither the Gambling Commission nor local authorities have the powers to require double-staffing as a licensing condition?

The Davies article contains the usual flawed information as parroted by the bookies? The majority of this has already been rebutted by the Campaign.

Yes - the prevalence survey shows that less than 1% of the population are problem gamblers, but this is totally irrelevant in assessing the FOBT impact. As the average age of problem gamblers is getting younger, average debt is getting higher and there is greater funding of gambling losses through crime and drug dealing. As a result, the volume of the totality of harm could be much greater, even with no change in the overall prevalence number. Mr Davies also ignores mounting evidence which shows high levels of problematic gambling among core betting shop customers and FOBT users.

The Davies article also claims that FOBTs cannot be used for money-laundering and for large losses. Honestly Phil? Coral, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power!

A debate with filibustering 'Honest' Phil? I would rather we argued in front of a judicial enquiry, where evidence actually matters.

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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