Carolyn Harris MP: Gambling bosses cash in as victims of addiction continue to suffer
Labour MP Carolyn Harris asks questions about executive pay in the bookmaking sector and greater regulation for online gambling, following her successful campaigning on fixed odds betting terminals.
I was shocked – yet not surprised – to hear about yet more truly abhorrent news from the gambling industry this week.
The first of two kicks in the teeth was that GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes and Foxy Bingo, awarded its chief executive an eye-watering £19.1 million in pay last year. The company’s chairman was also given a bumper pay packet.
If this weren’t bad enough, GVC decided to decamp to Gibraltar, a tax haven, to hold its AGM. It’s reported that this was a bid to avoid their shareholders, many of whom were angry at the massive sums being handed out.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with businesses making money. But what we’ve seen from GVC this week is nothing short of a moral outrage. Right now across the UK there are hundreds of thousands of people struggling with gambling addiction. Far too many have lost everything they have to gambling; whether this be online or on the high street.
But while the misery continues up and down our communities, the bosses of big companies like this think it’s ok to simply go on pillaging millions of pounds off the backs of those who can least afford it.
I knew that the success we had in reducing the stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) would be just the first step towards getting this industry in check but even I have been surprised by the sheer arrogance of the people we are up against.
Nearly 42 per cent of GVC’s shareholders voted against the chief executive’s pay yet, instead of listening to their concerns, the fat cats appear to have run away from the difficult questions facing them.
News like this makes my blood boil and makes me more determined than ever to bring this industry under control. That’s why I’m really pleased to have launched a brand new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm. Together, with colleagues of all political colours, we’re going to work together to identify what needs to change to help prevent any more innocent individuals from falling into the vicious cycle of problem gambling.
Given that such a significant proportion of gambling now happens online, we’ve launched a specific inquiry into this issue so that we can prevent this scourge from inflicting any more damage on our communities.
Many people, of course, enjoy a bet and don’t fall into addiction. But the industry’s apparent willingness to turn a blind eye to the increasing number of people who do become addicted is frankly immoral. The fact is, they know that this is happening and they know that it is a problem they are directly fuelling. Yet, as we saw with FOBTs, they will not act to change things unless they are forced.
It’s time for the industry to show some humility. We must show the fat cats they cannot continue to brazenly cash in on our communities while so many continue to suffer as a result.
Carolyn Harris is Chair of the Gambling Related Harm APPG & Labour MP for Swansea East