The Campaign for Fairer Gambling writes that DCMS must ensure all evidence submitted to the FOBT review is relevant and that it paints an accurate picture of problem gambling.
The annual Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) conference takes place this week, the first one as the newly rebranded GambleAware. There has been no public explanation as to why the RGT suddenly decided to rebrand itself, but like any organisation that has been the subject of negative media and public scrutiny, it looks like they are now trying to reconcile themselves to a new era of rolling back gambling liberalisation.
Their conference is now a two-day event with lots of speakers, so it looks as though it is very important. But what will the topics be?
Will there be any discussion of another incident of money laundering – “Gangster jailed over £2 million Ladbrokes money-laundering drug racket” – where proceeds of crime were funneled through a Ladbrokes online betting account? What a ridiculous twist that one senior Ladbrokes Executive, Graham Weir, recently appeared on YouTube answering sycophantic questions from an interviewer at the World Regulatory Briefing, claiming that Ladbrokes look after their online gamblers by checking up on them to make sure they are not losing too much.
Why was Ladbrokes incapable of realising that a 26 year-old from Cardiff who could afford to gamble over £100,000, never mind £2 million at their site alone, was probably either a gambling addict or a money-launderer or both? Is it because Ladbrokes do not do what Mr Weir claimed they do?
Once again it looks like the Police are detecting large scale money-laundering via corporate gambling operators, whilst the Gambling Commission and the operators they licence sit by and watch. Ladbrokes have been on the naughty stool before and are clearly still trying to learn lessons from previous money-laundering incidents. Will the Gambling Commission put them in detention this time or give them another gentle slap on the wrist?
There have been “getting tougher” threats from new Commission CEO, Sarah Harrison, because she actually thinks that Britain can become the center of excellence for gambling regulation. Ladbrokes is falling off the naughty chair in laughter. Let’s see if there is any real punishment this time.
The main point to understand is that there is no purpose in the GambleAware research, education and treatment agenda if operators do not conduct their business in basic compliance with the licensing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Just as the GambleAware conference tables were being dressed in “responsible gambling” messages ready for their annual shin dig, The Times newspaper revealed that the former boss of Paddy Power had put the boot into FOBTs declaring them the “crack cocaine of gambling”. Just before former RGT boss Neil Goulden was lobbying to defend FOBTs, the Paddy Power boss was telling the Irish Government to ban them saying they were “particularly enticing to younger gamblers in disadvantaged areas”. He also accused the British Government of being “as addicted to the tax revenue from the machines as vulnerable customers are to losing money in them”.
In the early days, the Campaign heard that FOBTs might be approved in Ireland and ran an ad against them in The Irish Times. The following day there was a government declaration that FOBTs would not be allowed. At that time, we did not know that Paddy Power supported us.
One story that will worry the GambleAware crowd is the revelation that 450,000 kids gamble every week. As ever the bookmakers claim “there isn’t really a problem”.
William Hill’s Andrew Lyman popped up to claim that the current pass rate for underage testing in betting shops is 88% and he disputes that there is a significant problem in his shops. A 12% failure rate is not a problem for Mr Lyman. Perhaps he would realise how significant 12% was if he knew personally young children who had been drawn into gambling.
Advertising, accessibility and normalization are driving underage gambling. The “Please gamble responsibly” message is a disaster.
DCMS has a chance to get a grip on all these failings through maximizing restrictions based on evidence submitted to the Review. GambleAware has not been able to produce the evidence to advise the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board or the Gambling Commission on FOBT stakes, because it has avoided doing so. DCMS must not not rely on “advice” from these bodies.