The Campaign for Fairer Gambling poses questions which it believes should be asked of high street bookmakers like William Hill.
Justifying the hospitality she has received from bookmakers, Corri Wilson SNP MP, gave her opinion that William Hill is “a responsible gambling operator”. Actually, they are a “licensed” gambling operator for which they are expected to behave responsibly. Just because William Hill is the only one of the big four bookmakers not to have been caught out allowing money laundering, does not mean they should be awarded the “responsible” accolade.
Meanwhile, The Scotsman gave space to the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) to peddle the usual ABB fake-ology and fake-onomics. On behalf of the ABB, Donald Morrison gave a Glasgow Kiss to FOBT truths. However, contrary to what Mr Morrison says, FOBTs are more associated with violence than any other form of gambling and have a net negative economic effect, NOT a positive economic effect.
Any MPs who think they understand betting shops because they have been escorted on pre-arranged visits are fooling themselves and their constituents. Here are some questions Ms Wilson and other MPs should ask William Hill:
- Do you have a VIP list of over 1,200 gamblers?
- Do these VIPs wager over £10,000 per week?
- Do these VIPs have an average loss per year in excess of £100,000?
- Does the annual loss from these VIPs exceed £120 million?
- Have any of these VIPs ever been identified as a problem gambler?
- Have any of these VIPs ever been identified as a money-launderer?
- Does your in-house legal team use software called Leviathan?
- Does Leviathan record shop calls regarding disputes, abuse, damage and violence?
- Are there over 10,000 calls per year?
- Are calls resulting in police call outs excluded from Leviathan tick-the-box reporting?
- Was the damage insurance total limit reached by month seven in 2015?
- Are staff being left to operate shops alone after only four weeks training?
- Are gamblers using debit cards to fund FOBT play, ever being prevented from placing funds back on cards?
- How many self-exclusion breaches are there that are not recorded?
The best person to ask should be Andrew Lyman, William Hill’s Head of Public Affairs. He knows his way around, being ex-Gambling Commission, ex-ABB and a Portcullis House associate of the far-right outlier Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley.
Mr Lyman recently tweeted about Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative MP for Worthing West, a member of the APPG on FOBTs. This group reached the only rational conclusion possible when taking a serious look at FOBTs – that the maximum stake for betting shop machines should not be greater than that for machines in bingo halls or arcades.
Sir Peter welcomed a child health charity, Rays of Sunshine, to Westminster. Bacta, the arcades trade body, is just one of the many supporters of this charity but that alone was enough to get Mr Lyman ranting on twitter.
Under his “legalfleagle” handle, Mr Lyman has already been exposed and reprimanded for his biased and vindictive late-night tweeting by Tom Watson MP and his lobbying tactics were condemned by a recent Scottish Executive Inquiry into FOBTs.
The SNP has many MPs in the Commons and many MSPs in Holyrood who support a stake reduction on FOBTs. Holyrood asked for devolved powers from Westminster related to FOBTs, but there has not been any impact of those yet, as the powers are limited in scope.
So why are there still some in the SNP who are not yet fully on board with FOBT stake reduction? Did ex-CEO of William Hill, Ralph Topping, have any influence with his independence funding? Both William Hill and the ABB are members of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, which actually gets government funding! This entity serves as another propaganda tool for the ABB in Scotland.
But in the end, it will not matter how much faking the ABB gets out there. It should not be forgotten that DCLG and DCMS still have to try to come to agreement under the Sustainable Communities Act proposal for a maximum stake on FOBTs of £2. The current DCMS gambling review has been designed to facilitate such a stake reduction.