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Parliamentarians BEWARE - Bookies assault on facts intensifies

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling responds to recent criticism of an APPG report on fixed odds betting terminals.

Two recent news stories claimed that a maximum stake reduction on FOBTs in the £10 to £30 range is anticipated by analysts, the same analysts who are coincidentally being briefed by the bookies.  Apparently, this is already factored into the share price of the major bookies. Are they trying to prevent a slide in share prices as the DCMS review is under consideration? Or is this just misplaced confidence in the bookies’ ability to paint a different picture for Parliamentarians?

The headline of a recent Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) press release was, “Bookie’s demand inquiry into “deeply flawed” MPs’ FOBT report”. This was issued the day before the Report was made public, so the ABB could not have even known what was in the report to make that conclusion. In their haste to bring forward a non-fact story it could be considered that the ABB claim is that MPs are deeply flawed.

The ABB also claims that the report is “funded by vested interests in casinos, arcades and pubs.” It is, in reality, funded by a cross sector and cross industry group of organisations of which the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA) has become the latest to join.

ABB CEO, Malcolm George, states that these “vested interests would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented”. However, Mr George is contradicting previous ABB statements about the impact of FOBT stake reduction.

Their first pitch was that there would be an increase in illegal gambling if stakes were cut, yet there was no evidence ever presented to support this. Their next pitch was that it would result in more remote gambling, with the implication that remote gambling is more dangerous than FOBTs. Yet the bookies’ own statistics show very low cross over between land based betting shop customers and remote betting. Many FOBT gamblers are cash-only, unbanked, financially vulnerable or seeking anonymity, so are unlikely to be able to, or even wish to sign up for a remote betting account. This is evidenced in the extraordinarily low take up of loyalty cards for FOBT play and the accompanying failure of the bookies’ responsible gambling measures.

Now consider the basis for the bookies’ new paranoid musings. If casinos, arcades and pubs will benefit from action against FOBTs this means that the bookies think that their FOBTs have disadvantaged casinos, arcades and pubs. The preposterous conclusion is that it is acceptable for the vested interests of the bookmakers to speak up for FOBTs, but it is not acceptable for the sectors they have disadvantaged to speak up against FOBTs.

The reality is that it has taken far too long for the other gambling sectors to take a stand against the FOBT status quo. With the ABB firing blindly, it would not be surprising if more voices from the other sectors joined the chorus. Have the bookies shot themselves in the foot?

Another alternative representation from the ABB was found in the, “Cutting stake limits on FOBTs could put players at greater risk, warns new university report” article. This headline was not in the GambleAware press release of the report. In fact, it was in a part-sentence in parentheses in a nearly three-page executive summary, with the “risk” quoted actually relating to other games on FOBTs.

The next alternative representation from the ABB was that “New evidence from the Gambling Commission reveals that gamblers risk more money and are playing for longer on gaming machines in arcades than on FOBTs”. Yes, the ABB managed to find a single data point in a spreadsheet of over 1,500 data points and create another insult to the art of understanding statistics.

How about the latest bookie tactic? Emails from constituents to MPs asking for betting shops, like some near extinct animal, to be protected.

The General Synod of the Church of England voted 310 to 0 to support FOBT stake reduction to £2. They have now joined in unity on this ask with over 90 local authorities, major opposition parties, many Conservatives in both houses, the APPG on FOBTs and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Parliamentarians beware - sovereignty relies on respect for the facts. Don’t allow yourself to be poisoned by the bookies’ alternative spin. 

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