For Whom the Lord Bell Toiled

Last month, Lord Bell appeared on Newsnight fronting up the disgraced Bell Pottinger, the PR spinners he co-founded, which has now been dissolved. Re-wind a few years and his Lordship was fronting up another disgraceful entity.

In 2013, he was the guest of honour at the annual shindig of the Association of British Bloodsuckers (Bookmakers – Ed) – the ABB. According to Private Eye, he encouraged them to take a leaf out of the tobacco lobby’s playbook and believe “your opponents are wrong, and the moment you start acknowledging that they have an argument, you’re dead”.

It must have had an impact as Malcolm George, now CEO of the ABB, still claims that betting shops are the safest places to gamble.

Back then, the ABB Chair, Neil Goulden, was also Chair of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT). Guess who did the PR spin on the RGT’s whitewash research into FOBTs? Yes, Bell Pottinger!

When the RGT met with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board to discuss the FOBT research whitewash, guess who was in the room with them? Yes, Bell Pottinger!

It was also reported that Lord Bell had advised the ABB to acquire the royal seal of approval – which would have made them the Royal Association of British Bookmakers.

It will take more than bookies’ PR spin to avoid their pending seal of disapproval from the government’s FOBT review.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

Sock-puppet “charity” the IEA slapped down by regulator for general election bias

Somehow, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) enjoys charitable status, which means they are not required to disclose who funds them. This allows the IEA to carry out its work of lobbying for deregulation without being accused of a conflict of interest.

Charities, of course, are not permitted to be politically partisan. So, the IEA decision to publish a report with the Taxpayers’ Alliance on “Policy Proposals for a Conservative Manifesto”, and to put out a press release entitled “Labour’s manifesto pledges would add at least £40bn to public spending”, were in breach of Charity Commission guidelines. As a result the regulator insisted that these were withdrawn.

The IEA’s report “The Crack Cocaine of Gambling?”, which called into question the demonstrably addictive features of £100 a spin FOBTs in betting shops, suggests a commercial relationship with the bookmakers that the IEA’s charitable status has concealed.

It is laughable that the report’s author, Chris Snowdon, writes for Spectator Health when he is effectively a lobbyist for the tobacco, sugar and gambling industries by proxy. It says a lot about the Association of British Bloodsuckers (aka Bookmakers) that only the IEA are prepared to make their case for them, an organisation for whom freedom only means freedom for corporations.

The BBC should cease inviting anyone from the IEA onto its programmes until the IEA declares all funding sources.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

Bookie self-regulator goes into hiding as gambling sites found to be ripping people off

An eight-month investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed that people are not getting the deals they expected from gambling sign-up promotions, and sites are unfairly holding on to customers’ money. The CMA said it was taking action against “a number of operators” suspected of breaking the law.

Nisha Arora from the CMA said: “New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions only to find the dice are loaded against them. And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money.” Adding that customers were sometimes forced to play hundreds of times before they were allowed to withdraw their money, denying them the choice to “quit while they’re ahead.”

Ten years since the enactment of the Gambling Act and the formation of the Gambling Commission, this is a conclusion that millions of gamblers have been painfully aware of.

If the Senet Group, the industry-funded self-regulator, actually did what it says it does: “promote responsible gambling standards and ensure that the marketing of gambling is socially responsible” this would not be an issue, so proving that self-regulation does not work.

Wanda Goldwag, the “independent standards commissioner” appointed by the Senet Group, who regularly shows up in Westminster with PR spin initiatives, has gone silent and missing since the CMA news that her members could be subject to legal actions.

Wanda – where are you?  

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS.

Making a Marc

Bookmakers battered as Government cracks down on ‘crack cocaine’ machines” screamed a Telegraph headline last week, bringing a leprechaun’s smile to former Paddy Power boss, Stewart Kenny, who had been calling for such action for some years.

You got it, another big bookmaking boss came out against the “crack cocaine” of gambling. Mr Kenny told the Irish Government, “Let us learn from the mistake in the UK of allowing them into betting offices. Once they are in it is impossible to get rid of them or even curb their more addictive elements.” He joined the growing ranks of industry insiders, (which includes another former Paddy power boss), who are all urging action on FOBTs.

Though the Telegraph headline may have been a little presumptuous as the Government hasn’t yet announced a “crackdown” on FOBTs, but an All Party Parliamentary Group has. The cross-party group of MPs has backed a stake cut saying “Government now has clear case for significantly reducing the £100 stake”.

So, MPs from all Parties, the media, the Scottish and Welsh Governments, the public and an increasing number of bookmakers themselves all want action on FOBTs, whilst just 4% of the public are in favour of keeping them!

Marc Etches, the CEO of “Gamble Aware” – the rebranded version of the bookmakers’ FOBT lobbying vehicle, hasn’t yet caught up with the times. He is still trying to persuade the Government NOT to act and joins an ever-decreasing club of industry CEOs desperately clinging to FOBTs (or their bonuses to be more precise).

As the Campaign told the Scottish Daily Record, those who continue to defend FOBTs will have blood on their hands.

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTs

Philip Davies MP – Bookies Leading Tool in Parliament Needs Suspending


Tory MP Philip Davies was the clear leader of a group of MPs exposed in a recent Private Eye article, for accepting freebie hospitality trips from the bookies. Caroline Nokes, another Tory MP and John Mann, Jim Dowd, Justin Madders and Toby Perkins from the Labour Party all accepted around £500/600 in freebies from the lobbying bookies, but Davies beat them all with £3,000 of freebies.

What makes Davies, who besides having a bit of a problem with women, is anti-gay marriage and thinks disabled people should work for less, so popular and valuable to the bookmakers? He’s the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Betting and Gaming Group.

This is a group that produces glossy brochures after inviting bookmakers and their cohorts to make speeches. Those speakers include bookmaker trade chief, Malcolm George, who took exception to a article about his pants being on fire. Did Schillings, the bookie’s lawyers, set off a fire extinguisher? If so, why are Mr George’s pants still burning strongly?

No-one who opposes bookies’ FOBTs (the high-stake, high-speed roulette machines) is ever invited to speak by Davies. As a result, Parliamentarians get a bookie-biased briefing organised by a man who gets a raft of freebies from them! This financial interest was not disclosed in a glossy brochure that he sent to the Parliamentarians.

Whether or not the Tories suspend Mr Davies for his “feminist zealot” views, he should be suspended for financial interest and non-disclosure.

Davies has no shame where he takes his freebies from and has a lot of form with the bookies, but other MPs should be wondering why the bookies are now so keen to “freebie” them!

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTs

Retiring Gambling Commission Chair Failings Exposed

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By special reporter Fill Graph

Britain’s betting shops are now the “most violent in the world” was the Daily Mirror headline last week, following the start of a Parliamentary inquiry into “crack cocaine” gambling machines.

With 999 calls from betting shops reaching record levels, attacks on machines and staff spiraling out of control – all in the same week the gambling regulator revealed that losses on the now infamous FOBTs had reached a record high at £1.7 billion.

Digging deeper the actual amount lost on betting shop FOBTs has increased in the last 18-months by £130 million or 8.3%. So bookies’ profits from the crack cocaine machines are increasing per machine and per shop.

Yet, over this same 18-month period betting shop customers have been bombarded with “responsible gambling” messages. They’ve been “protected” by a bookmaker established and funded watch dog that has so far failed to bark at anything. They have seen government led measures pushing them to sign up to loyalty cards allowing bookmakers to pursue them for more money by email and text message. So much so – since 2012 the bookmakers who are crying poverty over tighter regulations and higher taxes have only managed to spend £0.5 billion on TV marketing.

As the bookies FOBT bandwagon rolls on, so does the retiring Chair of the Gambling Commission Philip Graf, who will be speaking at the Royal Society of Arts on Tuesday July 19. His latest statistics, whilst trying to mask the rising figures behind the FOBT juggernaut steam-rolling our high streets, can’t hide the fact that every measure to tackle the issue under his Chairmanship of the regulator, has failed and failed miserably.

As Fill Graph says “Commission statistics do not highlight the FOBT truth – that more FOBT profits mean more FOBT addicts and more FOBT crime!”

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FOBTs are not FUN – Stop Now!


Wanda Goldwag, the Chair and Independent Standards Commissioner of the Senet Group, says – “When the Fun stops – Stop” and the tagline of her apparently independent Senet Group is “Promoting Responsible Gambling Standards”

Wherever does this “fun” concept come from? Since when was gambling a laughing matter or a kids’ activity?

The Senet Group only promotes standards relating to advertising and marketing. Of the £3,000,000 funding provided by its members (Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, William Hill and Scotbet), £2,251,000 was spent on “advertising and communications” out of a total spend of £2,677,000. There is no accounting for the money they spent on “aggressive” lobbying of Scottish politicians – coincidentally who are about to clamp down on FOBTs!

There were 35 complaints to the Senet Group in 2015 of which only one was upheld but no sanction applied. This was because human error caused the “responsible gambling messages” to be below the percentage standard for window dressing!

Ms Goldwag has about as much authority over the bookies as a hen in a fox’s den. Her CEO, Ron Findlay, also quit recently. Clearly the fun stopped for him.

Meanwhile all gambling sectors combined only contributed £6.5 million towards gambling research, education and treatment in 2015. Clearly the bookies are having more fun spending their loose change on Wanda.

How does Ms Goldwag profess to be independent when her salary is paid by the bookies, the standards she sets are agreed with the bookies and when the complaints procedure does not result in sanctions?

There is no evidence that “responsible gambling messages” have had any impact on reducing the totality of FOBT harm. Surely a better approach would be to deter anyone from FOBT gambling by promoting “FOBTs are not FUN – Stop Now!”

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS

“Bonus King” Fred’s flunking Betfred

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A strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past” is the dictionary definition of déjà vu that Sarah Harrison, the recently appointed Gambling Commission CEO may have looked up this week.

Since her tenure at the gambling regulator began she has walloped Coral bookmakers with a hefty fine for failing to “prevent money laundering and problem gambling”. She then booted Paddy Power up the proverbial for “encouraging a problem gambler to keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children” and last week her handbag landed on Fred Done who was “found to have failed to meet his obligations on social responsibility and the prevention of money laundering”.

No wonder the Queen has just bestowed an MBE on the “consumer rights champion”!

Actually, that feeling of déjà vu goes back long before she even arrived at the Commission. In 2013 Ladbrokes copped a “telling off” for allowing money laundering in their shops in the North West of England. That was just before a Ladbrokes security manager revealed cover-ups on children gambling, criminality and money laundering and Coral have old form as well having been caught allowing almost £1 million to be laundered through their shops in the north east, again by a pathological problem gambler.

The new get tough regulator has ordered all monies made from the illegal proceeds be returned, donations are made to responsible gambling initiatives and costs are reimbursed.

Fred’s failures are so endemic that he has been ordered to appoint an “independent third party” to sort it all out. With Fred’s track record of linking his staff pay to the crack cocaine machines, offering 39.9% pay day loans to his own workers and then sacking them at Christmas, it will need to be a very “independent” third party or we may have déjà vu all over again.

Bookies, MPs and FOBT Horse-Turd

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Last week, the Gambling Commission published a damning indictment of Gala Coral. Gary Watts, a problem gambler, had stolen over £800,000 which he had lost to the bookmaker, but they had failed to realise that he was a problem gambler engaged in money laundering. A fail on both counts!

The judgement followed a Westminster Hall debate on bookies’ Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, where Tory MP David Nuttall claimed that it could not be true that gamblers are losing £300 in a minute but are also money laundering. It is apparently beyond his comprehension that some customers are money laundering, whilst others are losing £300 a minute.

Gambling with the proceeds of crime is also considered money laundering, which is precisely what Gary Watts was engaged in. This is why he got three years in prison and why the Gambling Commission required Gala Coral to forfeit the proceeds back to the victims.

However, true to the regulator’s form, no licenses were revoked and no fine was imposed on the bookie, despite Gala Coral messing up on a similar scale a few years ago. A no-lose situation for the bookies!

Two allegedly pro-horseracing MPs, the Tory’s Laurence Robertson and Labour’s Conor McGinn, expressed concern that restrictions on FOBT stakes would result in less cash for the bookies which could impact the survival of horse racing.

But betting shops have converted racing punters to FOBT gamblers with inducements such as free bets, credits and tournaments. They are also refusing bets from racing punters they suspect may actually win.

Horseracing is thriving in Ireland where, due to a sensible government, FOBTs are not allowed. The non-sense emanating from these pro-bookie MPs has an aroma of the horse’s ass variety…

Content produced and sponsored by Stop the FOBTS

Bookies “Legal Notice” Backfires

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…

Sponsored PostPaddy power 2

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!

Back-Scratching – the bookies and the Politician

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JP_DV sponsored fobt

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!

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Boris as Hulk…

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