Review of the Gambling Review - Part one: The Evidence
Derek Webb, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling founder provides more insights into the FOBT debate as DCMS has now announced its review of gaming machines and social responsibility requirements across the gambling industry.
It has been announced that the DCMS "Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures - Call for Evidence" will last until December 4th. In light of this, during this period there will also be a Campaign for Fairer Gambling article published on PoliticsHome's Central Lobby every week.
By the end of this year, the Campaign will have drafted over 150 articles on this site, which equates to around 100,000 words. Some of that text was speculation or opinion, but primarily opinion based on logic. Much of the text was fact, with often multiple links to sources of evidence.
Over the years, there has been the odd error or omission and correction, but very, very few. There has not been any removal of content due to legal threats to the Campaign from Schillings - the bookies favorite lawyers for that kind of bullying work.
An article written by Neil Goulden, then Chair of both the ABB and the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT), questioned my motives for the campaign, a familiar theme from the bookies and their associates. The ABB were publishing their content on PoliticsHome, so we joined them.
The Campaign has always had new facts and evidence to bring forward in its articles, whereas the bookies have had nothing new and even when they tried to respond to our building evidence, they got it badly wrong and we had to correct them.
As for my “motives”, the fixed debt of principle and interest owed to me by the US casino supply company, Galaxy Gaming Inc, was paid off in advance and in full in August 2016, as it refinanced the debt at lower payments over a longer period. So just when there might be action on FOBTs, I terminated ongoing payments in favour of a lump sum. What better evidence is there that the Campaign is not a self-serving master-plan?
Steve Donoughue, the unpaid secretariat of the APPG on Betting and Gaming, under Philip Davies MP, is already claiming that the pending Review is a stitch-up. He thinks that six weeks is not long enough for operators to compile evidence.
This view is endorsed by Helen Grant MP to the extent that she would "... prefer the evidence collecting period to be longer..." and is opposed to "...emotive knee-jerk reactions" according to Kent News. It is preposterous that Mrs Grant, who was in the DCMS ministerial role (as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage) from 2013 to 2015 and is personally doing nothing towards improving matters, thinks that anyone would want to listen to her on this subject.
Time is running out for the bookmakers and their FOBTs. Not only that, so are their friends and the organisations they once quietly viewed as “under their control”. It is no coincidence that as we approach a government decision on FOBTs, a new Chair of the industry funded Gamble Aware charity – formerly the RGT, hits out at FOBTs in the national media with a striking comment on her experience of them:
“I demonstrated two markers of harm in the space of about 10 minutes; erratic behaviour and erratic play. I got cross and started spreading money all over the roulette table, and then I thumped the button. I can’t help feeling there is an inherent risk when someone as measured as me starts thumping a FOBT.”
There is no reason that evidence by those favouring change should have to be more robust than evidence for those advocating the status quo. If anything, it should be the other way round as the proponents of the status quo have access to evidence which they can hide from public view.
We look forward to our evidence being given the appropriate consideration by DCMS.
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