The Campaign for Fairer Gambling asks questions about MPs & peers raising issues relating to the gambling sector in parliament.
Sensible questions were raised in the Lords last week by Baroness Smith and Lord Harries. They managed to elicit a written reply from Lord Ashton, the most junior of DCMS Ministers, on behalf of the Government. The questioners wanted to know about the incidences of underage gambling and the penalties currently imposed. Lord Ashton’s written response gave no satisfactory answers.
He explained that the Gambling Commission have powers but that local authorities also have powers and are responsible for individual actions. The Gambling Commission has effectively allowed test purchasing for under age gambling to be managed by the bookmakers themselves, with very limited oversight by Councils. The consequence of this is a rapid decline in test purchasing by Councils to ensure the bookmakers are upholding regulatory requirements. In 2011/12 Councils carried out 206 tests on circa 9,000 betting shops. However, in 2015/16 that number, had fallen to just 116.
Councils are wary of the legal “barbed wire” they must cut through if they enforce a closure of premises based on under-age gambling. A legal challenge by the bookmakers incurring heavy costs for their rate payers, would just be the start. No wonder local authorities want to limit harm to the young by limiting FOBT stakes under the sustainable Communities Act. The Government, relying on the Gambling Commission, maintains the pretence that underage gambling on FOBTs is not an issue.
When the police step in with a conviction of a major money-launderer with a gambling habit of over a million pounds, it would be hoped that the Gambling Commission would be there immediately to impose a penalty. But Ladbrokes still has to be brought to book for attempting to profit from a Cardiff drug dealer.
One of the bookmakers’ dwindling number of cheerleaders in the Commons, Labour MP Chris Evans, has tabled a few questions criticising family entertainment centres and amusement arcades. It must be pure coincidence that the ABB is using the same line of attack to deflect attention away from FOBTs. It would be inconceivable to think the inspiration for his questions came from the ABB.
Another MP, the SNP’s Corri Wilson MP, was featured in a Times article “MP accepted gifts from bookmakers“. It would be inconceivable, too, to think that this hospitality could have influenced her support. for the bookmakers in Parliament. The SNP said Ms Wilson has done nothing wrong. The SNP itself is wrong.
Ms Wilson claims that she “has found William Hill … to be enthusiastic about looking where it can improve”. How about this first step Corri? Ask William Hill to make public the statistics on their damaged FOBTs?
Whilst at it, why not also ask their trade body, the ABB, to make public the KPMG report that CEO Malcolm George keeps quoting publicly from despite it being “confidential”? In fact, why is it confidential? Could it be because Campaign expert consultants will be able to expose how it has been crafted to suit the commercial interests of the bookies?
Ms Wilson submitted an EDM in support of the bookies and a GambleAware promotion. The CEO of GambleAware, Mr Etches, acknowledges that an increase in stakes on casino slot machines from £2 to £5 resulted in greater association with harm but asserts that advocating stake reduction on FOBTs is a disservice to problem gamblers.
GambleAware only acknowledges research that it likes, so there was no comment from Mr Etches on the Daily Mail article, “Do Slot Machines Lull Gamblers into a Trance?” despite the fact overseas research showed the answer to this question to be yes.
Meanwhile, the Spectator must be in a trance as it allows Christopher Snowden of the IEA, the paid libertarian voice of the vice sectors, to write in a health column. Mr Snowden focuses on problem gambling survey statistics, ignoring the 5.5% vulnerable at-risk gamblers, the trance seekers identified in the Daily Mail as wanting to “escape feelings of stress, boredom or a low mood’.
VICE Sports did a great job explaining “A Safe Bet; How Bookmakers are Waging War on Persistent Winners”. Please read this Ms Wilson. The bookies you welcome to parliament only like losers, and of course parliamentarians who enjoy being given hospitality to attend race and sports events are doing so at these losers’ expense.