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 B drugs, and for a plot to launder £120,000 through bookmakers.

Yet the bookmakers are still trying to lobby against their inclusion in the Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive which would require customers to identify themselves if they stake more than a total of £1500 in a day.

In 2013 the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which advocates a £2 per spin limit on FOBTs explained to a public forum how it conducted a money-laundering test in a William Hill shop. £500 was inserted into a FOBT, and after three £100 minimal risk spins on roulette, a ticket was withdrawn and the money claimed at the counter.

Andrew Lyman, the Director of Group Regulatory Affairs at William Hill, then claimed that betting shops “have systems in place to prevent” money laundering, and that “many businesses, such as supermarkets, have to absorb an element of criminal money.”

One attendee then pointed out that “you can’t do it in supermarkets” and that they had “known nightclubs to be closed down” because of money-laundering.

Mr. Lyman also claimed incorrectly that wagering less than 40% of the cash deposited in a FOBT would automatically generate a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). The reality is, staff are alerted when this has happened but it is up to them to flag up a SAR. This alert can be easily avoided by money-launderers, most of whom are aware of its parameters anyway. Even so, there were 633 SARs recorded in betting shops last year.

Mr. Lyman has been at the forefront of misleading politicians and the public, but was caught out by the Convenor in a Scottish Executive inquiry into FOBTs, which recommended FOBTs be banned. Mr. Lyman claimed that it was not possible to use a debit card on a FOBT, but it was then pointed out that a card could be used at the counter and the credit loaded onto the machine.

He was then forced to apologise for aggressive lobbying, so will he now apologise for getting it wrong on money-laundering?

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 influenced behaviour.

A researcher noted that “scientific models are decades behind the casinos” and “anyone who has ever designed a casino game or played a gambling game will tell you that of course sound and light cues keep you more engaged…” British FOBTs in betting shops have taken the dangerous casino game roulette, added enhanced audio and visual features to engage gamblers more, and it is played much faster than the live casino game, making FOBT roulette much more addictive.

The evidence that FOBTs are the most addictive form of gambling has been available since 2010, but was hidden and ignored by the Gambling Commission, the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the so-called “Responsible” Gambling Strategy Board and the so-called “Responsible” Gambling Trust”. The Association of British Bookmakers and the Senet Group, which the bookies are behind, both claim to promote “responsible” gambling, but publicly contradict this evidence.

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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 guts, they’d ban these betting machines that enslave the poor,” she opined last month, citing their illegal introduction to betting shops, a recent suicide linked to the machines, a Scottish committee’s demand for them to be banned and 93 councils backing a reduction in the maximum stake from £100 to £2 a spin.

But bookie-supporting Ms. Coffey was not convinced. Responding to Ms. Foges on Twitter, she asked: “Any reason you didn’t look at UK Parliament Select Committee report on this? Because it came out with a different conclusion?” Ms. Foges responded: “I did. I don’t agree with its conclusion that what’s needed is removing the cap on FOBTs. Avoiding the central problem… and the hospitality enjoyed by committee members slightly undermines the credibility of the report too.”

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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 in police call outs to betting shops and 1,300 incidents of violence on premises in London alone.

Betting shops, which now account for 97% of all police call outs to gambling premises in the UK (casinos, amusement arcades and bingo halls combined amount to just 3%), have become the scourge of the gambling industry. The other gambling sectors have turned on the bookies for bringing the industry into disrepute with their “crack cocaine of gambling”, telling the government to “do the right thing and bring the stake on these machines in line with all other high street gaming machines”.

Councils and their national representatives, who have now decided to take on the government again to force them to take action on the 35,000 machines, have had enough of violent incidents erupting on their high streets. Grown men have been witnessed flying into fits of rage after losing thousands then smashing not one, not two, not three but sometimes four machines – plus TVs, doors and windows, sometimes even setting fire to shops causing staff to flee for their lives. It’s incidents like these that prompted a group of 22 Labour, SNP and DUP MPs, led by Graham Jones (with not a Lib Dem in sight), to write to the bookies calling on them to end lone staffing of their shops. That’s right, the bookies, whilst their shops have been turning into war zones, have been cutting wage costs and leaving lone shop workers to face knives and violence.

In Westminster the council this week decided to act and took the unprecedented step of telling William Hill at its shop located at 357 Harrow Rd, London to get bouncers on the door! After holding a review of the licence and taking evidence from the police, local businesses, residents and community leaders, evidence was brought forward showing anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and taking, vulnerable people being threatened, stolen goods being bought and sold and alcohol being openly consumed on the premises. William Hill, which has obviously not learnt from its ticking off in Scotland for aggressive lobbying and not taking no for an answer, was rebuked again by Westminster’s head of licensing, which told the company to stop contacting all his licensing colleagues over the Harrow Rd licensing review.

If a Holyrood Committee and Westminster licensing authority feel burdened and harassed by the bookies lobbyists, imagine the lobbying going on at Number 10 and 11! No wonder the bookies are now referred to as a “corporate mafia”.

FOBT suicide and the politicians who forget what they’ve said

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The heartbroken partner of a man who took his own life after blowing more than £65,000 on the bookies fixed odds betting terminals, has called for restrictions on the controversial machines.

Wendy Bendel, who lost her partner Lee Murphy a year ago, told Scottish TV that after his first attempt to commit suicide, he had confessed that he had racked up tens of thousands of pounds worth of debts gambling on the bookies’ £100 a spin machines.

“He said it’s those machines, they’re addictive. They’re like a drug. The anticipation from when you get paid to go on the machines, the complete adrenalin rush and high of winning and the complete despair and destruction when you lose,” Wendy told STV, referring to heartbreaking letters Lee had written to her.

As far back as 2007 it was being highlighted that one in nine people who played the £300 a minute machines were classified as addictive or problem gamblers – the strongest link in any form of gambling. But wait a minute, one Tory voice in 2007 was attacking Gordon Brown and the Labour government, blaming FOBTs for problem gambling and saying “‘this is clear evidence that Labour has failed to get a grip of problem gambling. With around two million young people at risk of becoming problem gamblers Labour has created a public health time bomb which they don’t seem interested in tackling.” That was Jeremy Hunt as shadow culture spokesperson and one of those young people he accused Labour of failing would have been Lee Murphy!

Yet, even when appointed cabinet responsibility for gambling in 2010, Hunt didn’t tackle FOBTs. Now, as health secretary, he fails to recognize that gambling addiction is a mental health issue that desperately needs NHS treatment provision.

Some Tories now want to take action on FOBTs according to the Sunday Times. This time it isn’t Labour’s Gordon Brown blocking a clamp down on the addictive machines, it is our latest Prime Minister David Cameron, who has turned down a plea from DCMS for a full review of the crack cocaine machines. Like Jeremy Hunt, he seems to forget what he’s said. In 2013 Cameron told Parliament he promised to take a “proper look” at whether high stakes machines should be banned from betting shops.

Another generation is again being let down by yet another government.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is campaigning for the maximum stake on FOBTs to be reduced to £2 a spin, to prevent further heartbreak.

Tories Take 25% Cut From Criminal Economy

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Police in Yorkshire have been hot on the trail of 400 winning “crack cocaine” tickets after a local drug dealer used the now infamous “crack cocaine of gambling machines” to clean the proceeds of his ill-gotten gains.

Police nailed the West Yorkshire drug dealer after raiding his home and finding £18,000 in cash, £30,000 of designer clothes and – to their surprise – paid betting shop “crack cocaine” tickets with a value of £36,000. The crafty dealer, like those revealed in a Guardian expose in 2013, is believed to have pumped his drug fuelled income into the casino machines known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals or FOBTs, staked on both red and black and cashed out over 400 times, before collecting a ticket that legitimised his wad of cash. So if he was stopped by the police and questioned he could say: “I won it at the bookies ‘guv”.

In a discreet little post on its website, the Gambling Commission revealed their latest failure to “keep crime out of gambling” – one of just three things the regulator was established to do.

It’s not the first time Coral have been implicated in money laundering. Two years ago, the Gambling Commission ordered them to “pay back” £90,000 they had won from a single money launderer who had “gambled” around £900,000 in the bookmakers’ north east shops. And how did Coral treat this customer before they were rebuked? They rewarded him with free trips to the races, of course!

FOBTs have a staking capacity of £300 a minute and offer low margin casino games like roulette, making them a target for criminal gangs. So it’s no surprise that they turnover £13 billion in the most deprived areas of the country. The issue has been consistently reported in the media, but was also raised directly with crime busting Home Secretary Theresa May in September 2013. So far, gambling or money laundering on high stake machines, in deprived, high crime, high unemployment areas just doesn’t seem to concern our new majority Conservative government.

Cracking down on high level, white collar money laundering might appease our EU partners, but £100 a spin machines giving George Osborne a 25% share of the criminal economy look to be safe!

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is lobbying for the maximum stake to be reduced to £2 a spin, which would end high street money laundering.

More local residents are saying YES to Heathrow expansion

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If the Government gives Heathrow expansion the go-ahead, there will be no shortage of welcoming voices from local residents. The real story of Heathrow is that many people in west London want expansion.

Independent polling by Populus in 12 parliamentary constituencies nearest to Heathrow airport shows pro-expansion supporters strongly outnumbering opponents. Not only that, a massive 82% of 70,000+ responses to the Airports Commission’s public consultation – mostly from local residents – backed a new runway at Heathrow. The number of responses expressing support for Heathrow expansion is higher than the total number of all submissions to the HS2 public consultation.

More than 100,000 local people have now given their support for the Back Heathrow campaign in favour of expanding the UK’s hub airport. They include small business owners, faith leaders, resident groups and community champions, all calling for a bigger and better Heathrow which will benefit west London, the Thames Valley and every corner of the British Isles.

Increasingly, more residents are saying ‘YES’ to growth and opportunities in communities around Heathrow. They represent a new phenomenon in the debate about planning, employment and prosperity – these are the JIMBYs, local people who want jobs in their backyard. They are rejecting the NIMBY arguments we used to hear so much about.

Our message to the Government is that Heathrow expansion has wide cross-party support in Parliament and the backing of most local people, UK businesses and international airlines. There will ever be a better time to give the green light to a new Heathrow runway… let’s get on and build it for Britain.

Policy Exchange Invites Conference Guests to Take Up Rowing Challenge With James Cracknell

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Leading think tank, Policy Exchange, invites guests attending the Conservative Party conference in Manchester next week to test their skills and speed in a rowing challenge to highlight the importance of physical activity in tackling obesity.

Double Olympic gold medallist, James Cracknell, will be presiding over the races which begin on Sunday 4th October from 3:30pm in the Policy Exchange marquee in the secure zone.

To sign up or for further details email events@policyexchange.org.uk

Win a Magnum of Champagne and Political Book of Choice

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Should the government be allowed to utilize social media?

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The answer is a resounding yes. Many developed private sectors have indeed utilised social media not so much to their own advantage, but more importantly, to the advantage of those they have been elected to serve.

This article […]

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Quiz: How Conservative Woman are you?

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The Conservative Woman is a voice for social conservative values. But how Conservative Woman are you?[…]

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Gatwick’s plan is simpler, cheaper, faster and quieter

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At Gatwick, we believe the economic benefits of airport expansion must be balanced with the impact on the environment. Only Gatwick can offer the new runway the UK needs but at a fraction of the environmental cost of […]

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