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Whatever the election result, Fairer Gambling wins

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling assesses the different manifesto pledges on fixed odds betting terminals and suggests that both Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn would take action on FOBT stake reduction.

Without predicting the election result, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling can predict that the government will recommend a FOBT maximum stake of £2 prior to the summer recess. The Labour Party, the Lib Dems and UKIP have this as a manifesto commitment and Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, today told the Guardian: “Theresa May’s government has repeatedly failed to act on FOBTs, despite being presented with evidence they are highly addictive and target people who struggle to control their gambling. Local councils see the damage FOBTs cause in communities up and down the country but the Tories have simply refused to talk about how to tackle this problem. It’s a shameful record of inaction which confirms the Tories will always place corporate interests ahead of people.”

Our Campaign recently consulted legal experts who disclosed to us that the chances of the bookies prevailing in a Judicial Review against FOBT stake reduction, were non-existent.

The delay to the gambling review caused by the general election has provided us with an opportunity to bring forward more evidence to support the de-liberalisation of gambling. Recently, an addict in Northern Ireland (NI) stole £150,000 and turned over £100,000 cash stakes in one day. Using the proceeds of crime to gamble is money-laundering (ML), but there was no sign of any "Problem Gambling Intervention" or ML "controls" from the operator in this case.

The Treasury exempted betting shops and remote betting sites from the 4th EU Money Laundering Directive, saying that they are proven low-risk, snubbing Gambling Commission advice, which found them to be high-risk. The UK will be seen to be taking money laundering less seriously than other EU states on the 26th June when exemptions to the Directive are declared.

This will also be a snub to Michel Barnier, the Brexit Chief Negotiator for the EU who was previously responsible for financial services, including the ML Directives. Other EU members already dislike how British remote operators are based offshore in Gibraltar but still have access to EU markets.

The UK Gambling Act does not apply to NI, so it is not under Gambling Commission oversight. Unless Stormont re-assembles, supervision of NI gambling will be the responsibility of the UK government, which knows that FOBTs and remote gambling are not legally approved there.

The Campaign correctly predicted that a gambling review under Theresa May would be wider than just stakes and prizes and would include TV advertising. However, the bookies’ share analysts, who did not predict this, are now reviewing their predictions.

They often predict that a FOBT stake reduction could not be to below the £10 to £20 range, that introduction of measures could be delayed until October 2018 and that any delay is good for the bookies. The Campaign knows what FOBT stories are pending, whereas the analysts are clueless and wrong on all counts.

The pre-election swing to Labour is a wake-up call for Conservatives, regardless of the result. The Conservatives have not included enough in their pitch to those that are "just-about-managing” beyond spin and rhetoric. Mrs May will want to destroy that perception, so taking strong action on FOBTs and remote gambling will be an easy score in that direction.

A Gambling Commission executive speaking in New York recently raised the concept of responsible gambling also being about the product. With at last a decent fine of £300,000 on BGO, a remote gambling advertising abuser, and at last a licensing review of 888 for self-exclusion failings, the Gambling Commission is "step-changing". It is changing in-step to the direction the government is heading with their review.

Meanwhile the bookies claim that it is "bizarre" to want a £2 FOBT stake. But if both the current Prime Minister and the alternative Prime Minster want this, then the bookies must be relying on "bizarre" advice.

Jim Mullen of Ladbrokes gets puff pieces by sycophantic business journalists, claiming he “won’t go down without a fight”. He knows he is going down and the fighting talk is an attempt at last ditch reassurance. 

Two recent stories in the Times – “Bookie bends rules that protect gambling addicts" and "Thousands of warnings are ignored weekly" – include whistle-blower comments sounding right-on-the-money, with Ladbrokes’ comments sounding like the usual corporate double-speak.

Mr Mullen thinks he is fit to be a trustee of GambleAware, which alleges that it "minimises" gambling harm. Jim, when the dust settles, Ladbrokes investors could be looking at comments by you and your team and considering if they were being offered a "no-win" investment, like your 1000/1 offer on Nigel Farage being the next Prime Minister.

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