Not the First Time Whittingdale Has Enjoyed the “Perks of the Job” a Little Too Much!

Strip Club 3

It has been revealed that John Whittingdale and Philip Davies did not declare a night out courtesy of the Lap Dancing Association before their select committee opposed a crackdown against the spread of lap dancing clubs.

Whilst other members of the committee saw little value in the visit, Whittingdale and Davies did not pass up the opportunity for a lads’ night out to the lap dancing club “For Your Eyes Only” before heading to another club for dinner.

It’s not the first time Whittingdale and Davies have risked the perks of the job clouding their judgement. In 2012, Whittingdale chaired a select committee inquiry into the 2005 Gambling Act. Both Whittingdale and Davies, who was also part of the committee, took advantage of trips to Macao and Australia to look at casinos, but only found time to visit one betting shop in Britain on a visit chaperoned by the bookmakers.

Before the inquiry began, Davies was taken to the races by Ladbrokes – but failed to declare this before quizzing the Ladbrokes CEO. During the course of the inquiry, the Gambling Commission failed to disclose independent research from Harvard University showing that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are the most addictive form of gambling.

This might explain why one of the committee’s key recommendations was to allow more than four FOBTs per betting shop – machines where it is possible to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. The Coalition government rejected this recommendation, and Davies was forced to apologise for his misdemeanor.

Now Whittingdale is Culture Secretary and the triennial review of stakes and prizes is overdue, the question of what perks he is enjoying courtesy of the bookmakers will surely start to be asked…

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS

Bookies “Legal Notice” Backfires

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Paddy power 29 march 2

The legal toys were definitely thrown out of the pram recently when the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) brought in their hot shot legal team, Schillings, to throw their dummies and rattles at every media outlet in the country.

Telling journalists that their members, who own around 80% of all betting shops, “don’t encourage problem gambling” and that to imply such was “defamatory”, the media legal desks could be heard quaking right across Fleet Street. Bashing the journalists with their rattles, Schillings ordered that “Our client is more than willing to engage with journalists during the preparation of stories and to provide factual material and comments where necessary”.

Paddy Power determined to test the “preparation of stories” went out of their way to encourage a problem gambler and pursued him (and his money) until he had nothing left – no job, no money and no family. Journalists fretting over the threat of defamation rapidly dialled the ABB HQ to provide “factual material and comment” – but the phone rang, and rang and rang.

A few days later, after being hung out to dry by the ABB, Paddy Power thrust themselves into the spotlight again having been revealed targeting ethnic minorities. Again journalists dialled the ABB hotline determined to give the bookmakers the chance to respond with “factual material”. “Hoorah!” screamed a journalist down the phone when a voice responded “hello ABB”. What response did the diligent journalist get? “The Association of British Bookmakers, which represents Britain’s biggest gambling firms, said it did not wish to comment.”

As Private Eye reported shortly afterwards “better luck with the legal notice next time”.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

VACANCIES – MPs Urgently Needed To Help Bookies…

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A week after the “social responsibility” credentials of bookmakers had been demolished by the actions of Paddy Power pursuing and pushing a problem gambler into abject poverty, Malcolm George the CEO of their trade association (ABB) told his members “In everything we do, every action we take, we must ensure that we are focused on our number one priority – protecting shops…”. No mention of a recent spate of suicides among their FOBT customers.

Quickly bypassing his Irish members’ debacle, Malcolm turned his attention to the other gambling sectors – bingo, amusement arcades, casinos and online operators, which up to now have left the bookmakers besieged in their FOBT bunker to fend for themselves. “We are all stronger if we act as an industry and I say this with sadness – to those of you in other sectors who consort with the sources of these attacks, who provide them with support – stop now,” begged Malcolm.

So far no white knight from a bingo hall or anywhere else has come galloping to Malcolm’s aid and what his speech underlines more than anything is that the bookmakers are not just at war with politicians, the media and the public, they are also at war with their industry colleagues – even among their own gang.

If all this isn’t bad enough, the bookmakers’ only vociferous cheer leader in the House of Commons was this weekend floored by the Times who revealed cozy deals on his betting account with Ladbrokes and more jolly jaunts with the other big bookies.

Is it time for little known Labour MP Chris Evans to fill Davies’ void? Malcolm welcomed Chris with open arms at the ABB’s annual general meeting last week. What are the odds on him being floored by the Times at some point, too?

A Hibernating Sloth Has No FOBT Power

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A government minister with the energy of a hibernating sloth approached the Dispatch Box in the House of Lords last week to push back on the continuing media and political tsunami engulfing the government, the bookmakers and their £100 spin crack cocaine machines. Unfortunately for the government, the Earl of Courtown remained in hibernation whilst peers on all sides of the House backed Lord Clement-Jones’ private members bill to reduce the stakes on the bookies’ roulette machines.

Even the bookmaker-friendly Lord Lipsey could no longer come to the rescue, conceding: “The bookmakers should have seen this coming and done something off their own bat, but greed stopped them doing it. I am wearied, too, by this constant repetition in their propaganda that they are waiting for the evidence.”

That greed has led one bookmaker – Paddy Power – to pursue problem gamblers, ethnic minorities and money launderers to put more money in their FOBTs, as the media revealed this month. However, Paddy’s former Chairman, like customers in betting shops, decided to go on the rampage against the machines. Writing in the Times, Fintan Drury accused bookmakers and government of behaving like “pimps” allowing FOBTs to “work the streets”. The former Chairman is now the most senior industry representative to break ranks and call for action against FOBTs, backing the most effective action: reducing the stake from £100 to £2 a spin.

The FOBT tsunami engulfing the bookmakers was predicted to be a big political row. It has now hit, with bemused ministers like the Earl of Courtown waiting for those with the real power in government to make a decision.  When pushed as to when the government would announce the long-awaited review of stakes and prizes, all the Earl could say was: “I am sorry… I cannot give any indication of that… I am not able to give any more information”.

So which minister can bring the “pimping” of FOBTs to an end?

Remote Gambling Tax to Be Raised In Budget?

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George Osbourne Paddy Power

A point of consumption tax on “remote gambling” (the political word for online or mobile) was introduced in December 2014 and set at 15%. This is the lowest rate of tax on any form of UK gambling.

Many Tories are unhappy with the remote gambling sector. Firstly, there is the barrage of texts and emails, which continued to be sent to a gambler who had committed suicide. Secondly, there is the incessant advertising of remote gambling on TV and at sporting events. Thirdly, some remote betting companies have been unwilling to contribute to funding horseracing through the “racing rights” initiative.

Most remote sites accessing UK gamblers are located offshore. They went there to avoid paying UK tax. They may have only limited direct employees in the UK and therefore have a negative economic impact on the UK.

Under the influence of the big bookies, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association is trying to use EU law to avoid paying this 15% tax. The same bookies that want to avoid paying tax where they transact business, causing gambling harm, try to claim they are “responsible”!

An increase in remote gambling tax to 20% or 25% would help to redress the years that these sites avoided UK tax. It would also mean any revenue lost if the government clamped down on FOBTs, which are taxed at 25%, could be recouped.

With a reduced tax take from FOBTs, but an increased remote gambling tax, Mr. Osborne can easily support the urgently needed FOBT stake reduction from £100 to £2.

The Paddy Power scandal has exposed remote gambling profits from the proceeds of crime, FOBT profits from money laundering and profits from a FOBT addict who was working five jobs to feed the FOBTs and still ending up homeless!

Anti-Crime Boss in Bed with Evidence Deniers

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Guido

Keith Bristow QPM is the retired Director-General of the UK Crime Agency. He has just been appointed Chair of the Gambling Anti-Money Laundering Group (GAMLG), a new body established by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and the Remote Gambling Association.

The ABB wants to ensure that their members do not have to comply with the 4th EU Money-Laundering Directive. This is despite casinos being required to comply and despite betting shops having casino games on FOBTs. The ABB’s Chair is Paul Darling QC and the ABB’s CEO is Malcolm George. Neither of them have any experience of what is actually happening in betting shops, which enables the ABB to make the very misleading statement that betting shops are the safest places to gamble in the UK.

Betting shop crimes are often not reported to police, but the rate of police call outs to betting shops by far exceeds the rate of call outs to any other gambling premises. FOBTs are the most dangerous form of gambling. But they are not allowed in arcades, bingo halls, pubs or clubs.

Data that could identify money-laundering on FOBTs is held by the bookies and the FOBT suppliers. But there is no evidence that there has been any attempt to use this identifying data. Will Mr. Bristow force the ABB to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about FOBT gambling, or will he avoid asking the difficult questions to keep his new clients happy?

Back-Scratching – the bookies and the Politician

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John Penrose MP should have had a very good understanding of FOBTs, as when he was at DCMS he was responsible for arranging the sale of the Tote to Betfred, a bargain for Fred Done, but a disaster for Tote staff. FOBTs had been introduced illegally, but the government owned Tote itself and had been operating them prior to the 2005 Gambling Act’s legitimisation of FOBTs as category B2 machines.

A recent Times article exposed that Mr. Penrose enjoyed the bookies’ sporting hospitality on 13 different occasions, including a visit to Royal Ascot.

Mr. Penrose has a record of staunch defense of FOBTs. At a Tory party conference, he was seen in a heated exchange at the Campaign for Fairer Gambling booth. He was upset that the Campaign was describing FOBTs as “the most addictive form of gambling”. If he had looked at the DCMS and Gambling Commission approved 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey and the secondary research based upon it, then he would have known that this description is factual.

An observer of the exchange made an interesting disclosure after Mr. Penrose moved on. The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) had held a private event at Tory conference and Mr. Penrose was seated in the small audience. In his speech, Dirk Vennix, the ex-CEO of the ABB and ex- Director of Communications at the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, stated: “You scratch our back – and we will scratch yours.”

After being an ex- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DCMS, Mr. Penrose is now Lord Commissioner (HM Treasury) (Whip) and Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, which was reported to have recently blocked a DCMS review of FOBTs. Whichever way you look at it, bookies and politicians doing a bit of back-scratching is not a pretty sight!

MP’s support for FOBTs at odds with campaign against male suicide

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Late last year, Philip Davies MP led a debate on men’s suicide to coincide with International Men’s Day. He spoke passionately about how “over the last 30 years… more than 130,000 men have taken their own life” and “given that there was an increase in suicides in 2013, the figure for that year is nearly 5,000 men.”

“There are a number of things that are likely to affect men more than women – for example, being in debt,” continued Mr. Davies, “…financial worries can play a big part.”

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Are William Hill Still In FOBT Money-Laundering Denial?

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The Liverpool Echo recently broke the story of a police raid which led to the discovery of a cannabis farm. This led to nine arrests and three people were charged with intent to supply Class A and Class […]

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Rat Experiment Proves Machines Can Be Built For Gambling Addiction

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“Flashing lights and music turns rats into problem gamblers” said the University of British Colombia (UBC) in their recently published paper in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers built a “rat casino” to determine whether sounds and flashing lights […]

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Cameron’s Former Speechwriter Slaps Down Tory MP Over FOBTs

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Therese Coffey MP went out to bat for the bookmakers once more, after David’s Cameron’s former speechwriter Clare Foges delivered a scathing attack on fixed odds betting terminals in the Daily Mail. “If our leaders had any […]

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Betting Shops Turning into War Zones

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Pressure continues to pile on the government over the £100 a spin roulette machines taking over the high streets. The Sun and the Daily Mirror, within 24 hours of each other, this week revealed a 50% increase […]

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