A scandal, the Lords, the Commons, a scoop, a petition, the stories
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling's latest insight on the debate around fixed odds betting terminals and whether new regulations are now required.
“Betting firms censured for disgusting ads” was the Guardian headline, explaining how complaints about adverts by a remote gambling affiliate have been upheld by the ASA. The ad was deemed socially irresponsible as it was a fake story about an online gambler winning enough to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment.
As Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Labour leader said, “The disgraceful cynicism of these ads is breath-taking. The Gambling Commission needs to take strong action against the beneficiaries…”, Ladbrokes, Sky Bet, 888 and Casumo were each identified as beneficiaries. The Gambling Commission says “We will not hesitate to hold them to account.”
Essentially all affiliate marketing is in breach of a rational interpretation of the 2005 Gambling Act licensing objectives. All ads that do not explain that an affiliate will share in gambler losses are not “fair and open”. All ads that offer free cash or bonuses are deceptive unless the real true value, after applying the T&Cs, is disclosed up-front. Without this disclosure, these ads are not “fair and open” and target vulnerable persons. The Commission has “hesitated” to ever do anything about these practices.
A House of Lords debate raised many interesting questions on underage gambling, advertising and affiliates, with no-one advocating for the status quo. There was unity in criticism of the “gamble responsibly” message. Sadly, the Government response included wanting gambling to “contribute to the economy”. When will this government admit that offshore sites are a net negative to the economy, even without taking into account the associated socio-economic costs of gambling harm?
In the Commons, Tom Watson has interacted with DCMS Secretary Karen Bradley on the subject of gambling sites on football shirts. The weak DCMS response suggests that the review is going to fall short on the “social responsibility in advertising” aspect. “A gamble too far” commentary in the Guardian concurred that “the bookies only have themselves to blame” for their current predicament.
Malcolm George, CEO of the ABB, stepped back into the light on BBC Breakfast explaining that the bookies don’t want problem gamblers, because it is not a sustainable business model. Of course, he conveniently ignores that over 40% of FOBT gamblers were identified in recent data as being either at-risk or problem gamblers.
“Bookies machine winnings set to fall” was the Financial Times headline in a scoop regarding the proposed change options to be presented by DCMS in the review process. It confirmed that the Prime Minister is opposed to keeping the maximum stake at £100 . With the Labour party and most of the press supporting a reduction to £2, there would be hardly any political capital in a reduction to any amount above £2. At least on the back of this story, Campaign founder Derek Webb, was able to get a letter placed in the FT “Protecting bookies profits should not be part of the review process”
Over at 38 Degrees they have put together a petition asking to “Cut the maximum bet allowed on addictive betting machines”. It is worth signing to show support but is guaranteed to succeed anyway.
“UK Gambling map of misery shows how betting shops cluster in poverty areas” was the headline of a Sunday Mirror article. The bookies were quoted as “no more targeting deprived areas than Marks and Spencer”, which might interest M&S executives.
“The man is sweating, rubbing his nose. In minutes, he’s lost £400 on the machines” was an Observer headline. Staff do not prevent FOBT gambling by those under substance influence. The reporter watched one gambler engage in money-laundering in two shops. Treasury mistakenly claim that betting shops are proven low-risk money laundering premises.
A headline in The Guardian “Bookmakers offer £8 million anti-addiction campaign” did not really explain the story. The bookie dominated Remote Gambling Association, the bookie funded Senet Group, the Advertising Association, commercial TV and the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling are proposing more of the “gamble responsibly” mantra, which the Lords abhor.
Professor Linda Hancock, a pre-eminent expert, was quoted as saying this is a “form of covert promotion of gambling whilst presenting as harm prevention…”. Tom Watson could see through it saying, “There must be no stich-up to help the gambling industry avoid tighter regulations on gambling.”