Gambling operators are not remotely responsible – says CFFG

Posted on October 10, 2017 by admin
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The Campaign for Fairer Gambling have made recommendations to ensure that children are not being tempted to gamble.

Coming soon to Westminster is another “Responsible” Gambling Week. The usual suspects will be congratulating each other that “something” is being done. The reality is that the industry controlled voluntary funding is so pitifully low that the national total is only half the funding per local authority for other addictions.

A Guardian article entitled “Betting shop staff ‘not trained to spot problem gamblers’” picked up on a report by Revealing Reality for the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), which identified that staff are poorly trained or view problem gambling measures as pointless.

On behalf of the IGRG, John Hagan, claimed that “the industry is working tirelessly to promote responsible gambling”. Mr Hagan ignores that the industry, has promoted gambling, absolving itself of any blame by asserting that gamblers should be encouraged to gamble “responsibly”.

Two articles in the Sunday Times, “Cartoons lure kids to online gambling” and “Peter Pan and friends hook children on online gambling” explain how irresponsible the remote gambling sector is. Free play slot games are easily accessed, encouraging the temptation to start gambling underage at low stakes. Many of the game themes have content that could appeal to children.

Here are a few simple recommendations:

  • Do not allow free play – it is designed to entice inexperienced and vulnerable gamblers. While Treasury’s intention to tax free plays will lead to some reduction, increasing the remote gambling tax from the low 15% rate must be in the next Budget.
  • Do not allow deposit ID verification at a lower standard than withdrawal ID verification. A chance to get funds from consumers does not have the same bar as when customers want to get hold of the funds. How did this practice ever become acceptable?
  • Is it time to consider applying limits to stakes and prizes on online slots? Absolutely. Is it time to consider if online slots of any kind should be allowed, particularly if operated from offshore? Absolutely – there is no economic benefit to this activity.

An editorial in the Sunday Times entitled “The odds should be stacked against children gambling” states: “The regulator needs to show its teeth and put an immediate end to this practice”.

So, we have a couple of questions for the Gambling Commission.

One objective of the 2005 Gambling Act is preventing the association of gambling with crime. Another is preventing harm to the young and the vulnerable. But the young and the vulnerable are being harmed and their losses obtained illegally. Why have you not yet taken action against these operator license breaches?

You recently applied a penalty of over £7 million on 888. Not long after, the original owners of 888 sold their shares of over 10% of the company for over £100 million. Why is the largest penalty so trivial compared to the wealth that these operators have generated through abusive practices?

“Nothing can be done until everything is done’: the use of complexity arguments by food, beverage, alcohol and gambling industries” is the title of a recent British Medical Journal paper describing the lobbying tactics of the bookies, who argue that the maximum stake on FOBTs should not be reduced to £2 as it would not completely prevent problem gambling. They ignore that it would be the single most effective measure to reduce harm.

One proponent of doing nothing is Robin Oakley who wrote the Spectator article “In praise of FOBTs” claiming that FOBTs survive on small stakes punters and occasional flutters. Mr. Oakley – if it’s just small stakes and it’s only occasional – how could stake reduction ever harm anyone?

Two MPs who have enjoyed the most hospitality from bookies are Philip Davies and Laurence Robertson. Mr. Robertson is on the APPG for Horseracing and Bloodstock. Along with Matt Hancock MP he has invited MPs to a jolly at Newmarket. Does horseracing really want to get tarnished by standing with the bookies and their £100 per spin FOBTs?

When Labour is back in government, it will conduct a solid re-assessment of all aspects of gambling. Will the sport of kings, and non-doms, be worthy of continued subsidy by losing gamblers if it tries now to lobby against the Labour manifesto commitment to reduce the maximum stake to £2 a spin?

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