The Campaign for Fairer Gambling urges MPs to support its aims and that of the APPG on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to reduce the maximum stake on these machines to £2 per spin.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) went on the rampage last week against the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs, claiming that its funders have vested interests.
All parties from the gambling sector who fund the Group have a clear interest in maintaining the health, integrity and reputation of gambling. However, toxic FOBTs and betting shops are slowly destroying that reputation.
Malcolm George, CEO of the ABB, keeps stating that, “betting shops are the safest places to gamble”, despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary. It is not a “vested” interest to support bringing evidence forward to dispute these misleading claims. FOBT addiction and harm is arguably and in the view of the Campaign, the precursor of violent attacks on staff and regular criminal damage to premises and machines.
The ABB crying, “vested interest” is astonishing. Surely by now everyone in Parliament is fully aware that the bookies hold the British track record for provision of hospitality for purposes of furthering their own interests?
The bookies attacked me personally for funding the APPG. Philip Davies MP, who has well known links with the bookmaking sector, provided some quotes to a journalist at the Daily Telegraph to use some years ago and that journalist was Alistair Osborne who is now a business columnist at The Times. He ranted against the APPG and its funders. My response in a letter to the Editor was as follows:
The 2005 Gambling Act legitimized fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) at stakes of up to £100 per spin. However, in the event of evidence of harm, the Department for Culture Media and Sport was granted the power to reduce the stakes to £2 maximum per spin.
I spoke at a hearing of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs where FOBT addicts spoke out, and applaud the parliamentarians who have taken the time to listen to addicts and compile the evidence. This Group has now recommended FOBT stake reduction to £2.
Further to Alistair Osborne’s commentary (Feb 1), as founder and funder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling and StoptheFOBTs I have provided funding for the secretariat of the group, along with other parties opposed to FOBTs. I have personally profited from gambling as a poker player, as a game inventor and as a litigant in gambling related US cases. Following an asset sale and retirement, my only remaining interests are shares in a small US casino supplier and an investment in pending US litigation. These have no bearing on my motivations or my campaigning regarding FOBTs.
The APPG on FOBTS was formed in the spring of 2016, prior to the Brexit vote and when the old guard of Cameron and Osborne were still in Government. This duo had refused to act on FOBTs and even refused to review them.
The new Government under Theresa May has a social conscience that was previously lacking. They appreciate the work that the APPG on FOBTs has done. Mr George and the ABB has made several errors of judgement recently – refusing to appear in a Panorama investigation, refusing to give evidence before the APPG and attacking the integrity of Members of Parliament.
The current DCMS review may take longer than expected as the Government appears not to be frightened of taking on the bookies and is making sure their proposals will survive the judicial review that the bookies are gearing up for.
However, the bookies should maybe bear in mind the recent headline from the Christian Institute, “Bookmakers ‘in denial’ as ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ report released.
MPs, please sign EDM 61 supporting stake reduction on FOBTs to £2 and please encourage your colleagues to also do so.