The Gambling Commission confirms our suspicions
Firstly, we at Gamvisory would like to thank the Gambling Commission. Their announcement on 18 January 2020 informing us all that they had set up working groups with some of the ‘Big Guns’ in the industry, to tackle some key issues, one of which being VIP schemes, led by GVC, allowed us to formulate and accelerate our platform. Just ten days later, Gamvisory was launched and we received an email from the GC and BGC welcoming us to the scene (strangely not heard from them since).
News emerged yesterday that the GC’s invitation to GVC to look into VIP schemes has resulted in the decision that VIP schemes are only to be offered to the over 25s. Immediately after hearing this I spoke to a number of friends, friends that I would now call my extended family, all of whom have suffered immeasurable harm, losing eye-watering sums of money to gambling exploitation via the grooming they endured within the VIP schemes they were enrolled into. All these friends are in their late 30s and early 40s, all of them came out of their disordered gambling behaviours within the last 3 years. One of them had been a part of the GC’s recent EbE gathering that was organised by the GC. I take my hat off for him to even set foot in the same room as them as I personally know how the GC have treated his own personal cases, which raise staggering questions into the ability of the GC to their job effectively.
Naturally he was furious with this Over 25s proposal, as he knows only too well, the vast majority of so-called VIPs are Over 25 anyway. As for the other proposals, these are just a re-hash of the existing measures and rules that are already in place, the majority of which haven’t been regulated on properly ever. So quite simply, we ask the GC to show us the minutes of the meetings they held with GVC and provide us all with the evidence as to how this decision was reached. We as a group, and when I say ‘we’, should be interpreted as a growing army that has many connections, will not stop calling for this evidence until we can see it and until the decision can be reviewed by truly independent researchers. The last time the GC did something similar to this was when they recommended a £30 stake limit on FOBTs. We know that some so-called experts that touted for this behind closed doors (minutes never released) can have their independence called into question.
Let’s also remember that the head of the BGC, Michael Dugher at this time also berated Matt Zarb-Cousin, who was a part of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, by calling him, ‘roulette boy’. Matt of course suffered from an intense addiction to FOBTs quite some time back.
The virtual Grand National
With the virtual Grand National being thrust upon us on TV this weekend, one of the biggest things that seems to have been overlooked is the digital exposure that our children will have to virtual gambling. When I sat around as a kid with the family to watch the Grand National, I wasn’t triggered by the gambling element of it, it was just a yearly family event that came and went. Children now grow up with kindles and mobile phones, the digital world is entrenched within their psyches. So, I think to myself, as a kid growing up in today’s world, looking at this digital horserace, how my brain would process it. I would of course see it as a digital game because that’s what kids are used to seeing. So, exposing children to the virtual grand national will undoubtedly make them see this form of gambling as being just that.
Tom Watson led the charge last year for the creation of Labour’s manifesto pledges for gambling reform, which was really the beginning of thrusting the subject into the political limelight. We thank Tom for doing this, his statements below are a reminder of the legacy that he has left and we will continue to fight for on his behalf. Now he has a found a new vocation far removed from gambling, at his best friend Michael Dugher’s old job at UK Music.
To remind ourselves just how impactful some of what he said was at the time, we have lifted the following exerps;
Watson has been, along with the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth, one of the more vocal advocates of Labour’s policy on gambling. He says that the UK is struggling with a “culture” that risks exacerbating the rates of addiction, particularly as internet-based betting makes it faster and simpler to bet than ever before. Earlier this year, Watson suggested that current UK gambling laws were “unfit for the digital age” and highlighted the lack of regulation relating to gambling companies online.
– NewStatesman, 13 May 2019.
Watson went on to say, within the publication of the manifesto:
’I have seen first-hand the harm that some types of gambling does in our communities, including my own constituency of West Bromwich East. Much of this harm has come from the high stakes of fixed-odds betting terminals, which the Labour party successfully campaigned to change.’’
A review of this kind would mean a total overhaul of our current register of online gambling licences. It would mean that licence-holders have to reapply for the privilege of operating in the British market. If they fail to demonstrate corporate responsibility or adequate measures to prevent harm, these operators should face what I call the ultimate sanction: not just a fine, but the revocation of their licence.
He also raised some serious concerns around the exposure of children to gambling by stating:
“Levels of gambling among children remain stubbornly high. One child gambling addict is too many, let alone 55,000, and these figures show one in ten children is gambling every week.
“The government’s soft touch approach to gambling regulation has failed. The next Labour government will bring problem gambling under control with a comprehensive new gambling act, which will bring gambling advertising, spiralling losses and burgeoning in-game gambling products under control.”
So, our message to anyone that believes exposing their children to the virtual Grand National is a healthy and normal thing to do, please think twice. Tom Watson was very clear with his messages and now more than ever, they ring so very true. We as a collective family, very much look forward to working with the DCMS and the new labour leaders over the coming months to ensure we aren’t need just seen as the next ‘roulette boys’. The conservative government introduced the maximum £2 FOBT stake and we thank them for doing so (albeit sped up by Tracey Crouch) and listening to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.