Will any MP make the mistake of falling for the bookies "show and don’t tell"?

Posted On: 
19th July 2017

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling responds to recent criticism of a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Betting shops in a South London high street

Statements by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) are a source of great humour to the Campaign. Defending the indefensible is not an easy job, but then neither is working in a betting shop. Many staff members are subjected to abuse, violence and intimidation from FOBT users who have lost more than they can afford. One member of staff has been murdered, and another the victim of a serious sexual assault.

The ABB argues that reducing the stake to £2 a spin on FOBTs would destroy 21,000 jobs. Aside from the fact that Landman Economics found a £2 cap would actually create jobs due to the increased spending in the wider economy, if the bookies really care, why are staff still forced to work alone?

What is the Gambling Commission’s excuse for such a lax regulatory regime for ten years?

Treasury cannot be allowed to scupper a long overdue FOBT stake reduction

Why the Queen's Speech tells us FOBT stake reduction to £2 is more likely

The ABB say the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs broke the rules four times, implying that their report is discredited. The administrative oversights were the fault of the secretariat, Interel, rather than the MPs who carried out the inquiry. Unlike when Philip Davies MP failed to declare his corporate bookmaker hospitality to the Select Committee inquiry that recommended lifting the cap of four FOBTs per betting shop.

Mr. Davies chairs the APPG for Betting and Gaming, a bookie vehicle for lobbying in Parliament. He is infamous for blocking private member’s bills on free hospital parking, banning wild animals in circuses, making homes fit for human habitation, first aid training for children in schools and reversing NHS privatisation. Carolyn Harris MP, who leads the APPG on FOBTs, is a highly effective campaigner on many social issues including ending child funeral charges and Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI). The contrast between these two MPs says it all.

The ABB know their arguments are flawed, so they resort to attacking the messenger, whether that’s Carolyn’s APPG, or Derek Webb, who philanthropically founded and funds the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. Derek has explained the anomalies of gambling taxes, but this does not make him an advocate for casinos.

It does not make sense that games in casinos are taxed at up to 50%, when the same games are only taxed at 15% in remote gambling and 25% on FOBTs. This is even crazier when understanding that casino table games have higher employee ratios to players than the same games played remotely or on FOBTs.

As the Treasury has made life easier for the bookies by excluding them from having to comply with money-laundering regulations, the Treasury needs to regain credibility when dealing with the bookies. How about a tax increase on their remote gambling sites to 50% to provide more than ample fiscal compensation for any perceived shortfall due to FOBT stake reduction?

The ABB’s claim that the Campaign is “secretive” is farcical, as Derek has appeared on BBC Newsnight, BBC Inside Out, BBC Breakfast and other broadcast outlets on many other occasions. The Campaign publishes weekly on PoliticsHome’s Central Lobby, and now has over 100,000 words on this site alone explaining comments, opinions, facts, evidence and personal histories.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, as the day-to-day face of the Campaign, has had far more broadcast appearances than Derek. Matt has the experience, like many other young men, of going into a betting shop for a football bet when underage and being steered towards FOBTs. Matt became addicted to FOBT roulette only, not to gambling in general. Matt is absolutely open about negative the impact that FOBTs had on his life and those who care for him.

As for secretive, the ABB has kept secret a KPMG report they have used to lobby government for the past two years, on which they base their misleading jobs claims.The ABB might be able to dupe some people, but the wider public, and most MPs, are not stupid enough to fall for their spin.

The ABB has offered to take MPs to a betting shop, for a “show and don’t tell” photo-op. We look forward to putting those MP photos on a “wall of shame”. However, if any MP wants to see what an un-sanitised high-risk betting shop is really like, please get in touch with the Campaign and we will be happy to show you.