Gambling Commission’s CEO McArthur and DCMS junior grilled by Public Accounts Committee
Date: 27 April 2020

Following a scathing review conducted by The National Audit Office into the regulator responsible for the oversight of gambling in the UK, The Gambling Commission’s CEO Neil McArthur was questioned by a group of MPs and Lords into the evidential failings discovered of The Gambling Commission. McArthur, loyally backed up by the junior DCMS representative throughout, failed to properly set out ways in which he intends to resolve the serious failings promptly, leading the committee to repeatedly ask him to commit to urgent changes. The heat further intensified when one MP detailed a concerning case from one of his constituents that clearly pointed to industry and regulatory failings. McArthur promised to look into the case, which for many may feel is a smack in the face to those that have been told by the regulator that they do not deal with individual cases. The question for McArthur and the Gambling Commission to answer is: How many individual cases which show clear regulatory breaches are simply filed and not dealt with?

UK gambling Regulator, The Gambling Commission, Fast Tracks Release of £9m to Gambleaware
Date: 29 April 2020

The Gambling Commission surprised many (perhaps not some who knew it was coming) by announcing the magical release of £9m to Gambleaware to be spent on ‘Research Education and Treatment (RET), just two days after being shamed by The Public Accounts Committee. The funds will be distributed by Gambleaware, who are the ‘gatekeepers’ of money handed down to them from the Gambling Commission. It is worth noting that this money comes from ‘settlements’ as a result of failings from gambling companies, almost always as a result of Money Laundering failings (of which are a criminal offence). The main beneficiaries of the money are likely to be topped by Ygam and Gamcare amongst others, to continue to deliver their education and treatment services, which is primarily focussed on the ‘problem gambler’ taking measures to protect themselves from industry and regulatory failings. Any talk of the impacts that industry failings may have had on the destruction caused to disordered gamblers is often cited by these organisations as not being helpful. Clearly there’s no link between the vast sums sent to them regularly and the messages they pump out about personal responsibility. Or is there?

Roundup From Twitter

Sit Down on Your Chair

Gambling harm ‘enlightener’ Alex Macey (@conceptwin) from Gamvisory.com, had an interesting exchange with the founder of YGAM (Young Gamers and Gambling Education Trust) which is the lead resource for educating our children on how to gamble responsibly was asked by Macey if his education included the mental disorder associated to gambling addiction, Gambling Disorder, DSM 5 2013. Willows stated that this was not a part of Ygam’s process to which Macey acted with surprise since the mental disorder has been in existence since 2013. Ygam recently updated its website, offering advice about the problems associated to Gaming, yet bizarrely made to links to Gaming and Gambling.
Click here for the thread ///////

Ygam Founder Willows Sets Out his Intention to create Experts by Experience Group

Just a day after Ygam’s exchange with Macey, CEO Willows wrote an inflammatory tweet directed at Gamvisory.com, suggesting that his new group will be much more inclusive than Gamvisory.com and the appointment of a Chair is something he disagrees with. Willows, the leader of Ygam (unsure who made him the leader) who appears at industry heavy events such as ICE and recently an event held by the top legal go-to for many of the big companies, ‘Wiggins’ (specialists in brazenly and aggressively batting off clear regulatory and money laundering failings), conducted a professional looking poll and released the results from his 28 strong recipients.

Gambling Commission cuts staff, citing cut backs required to its £19m budget
Date: 5 April 2020

A leaked report to the press revealed that The Gambling Commission was planning a largescale culling of its staff. Many reacted with dismay at the news, following the National Audit Office’s review revealing huge failings within the organisaton. Matt Gaskell, clinical lead for the NHS’ Northern Gambling Clinics, said, “It further underscores the need for the government to step forward and take definitive legislative action and to strengthen, not weaken, the regulatory framework.” Chair Carolyn Harris, of the All Party Parliamentary Group into gambling harm, a crossbench group of MPs that gather evidence from a wide audience, launched a scathing attack at the news, saying, “Given the abysmal service provided by the commission against a continued onslaught of reprehensible practices among gambling companies, and a woeful report from the National Audit Office, I had expected The Gambling Commission to be beefing up their ‘service’ in an attempt to justify their existence.

Vice-Chair of the APPG and former leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith said, “If nothing tells you that the government needs to overhaul The Gambling Commission to give it more teeth, this decision makes it absolutely clear that must be done now.”

Gambling Commission appoints ‘A-List’ New recruits to top tier
Date: April 19 2020

Just two weeks after the Gambling Commission announces a bizarre culling of its ground troops, they released the appointment of five top level staff, the cost of which has not been released by them. Each of the new recruits, leaders in top level business, are clearly a strategic move by a regulator desperate to cling onto power, despite the growing calls for them to be completely overhauled as more and more evidence of failings come into public view. John Baillie a Chartered Accountant, was a former partner of ‘Big Four Financial Services’ and served for around nine years on the Member Reporting panel with the Competition and Markets Authority. He is joined by another Chartered Accountant, Sarika Patel who is a partner of investment banking operation, Zeuss Capital. Simone Pennie, (you’ve guessed it another Chartered Accountant) a former employee of KPMG (Canada) which is one of the world’s leading accounting organisations, and then went onto becoming Finance Director of BBC World News also joins the elite team. Catherine Seddon a previous documentary maker for the BBC is joined by Stephen Cohen, who has successfully restructured many old businesses and set up new ones……to correspond with regulator policies.

It’s unclear how these appointments will look to solve the legacy of failings that are steaming their way towards them on a daily basis. Politicians that have a keen interest in their failings (and those influential figures aligned to them working tirelessly in the background). People are finally waking up to these failings and any attempt to cover over them simply won’t work.

Billionnaire Betfred Owner Purcahses £25m stake in rival William Hill
Date: 10 March 2020

Just as the UK government finally began to deal with the CV19 crisis, global economic markets began to crash. Savvy fat cat billionaire Fred Done took the opportunity to gather some loose change and plough £25m into the share purchase of William Hill, one of the gambling companies most effected by the crash. Ironically, the share price catapulted down even further which resulted in a paper loss for Done, however they soon recovered from their historic all-time low of 28p. Done, like many of the so-called ‘Big Guns’, are positioning themselves to hoover up the emerging US gambling market, which will no doubt follow a similar path of greed and exploitation seen here in the UK over the past decade. Done told the Racing post, ‘I’ve brought Hills shares because they are massively undervalued and in my opinion, when it comes to the US they are the front runners.’

Shares in many of the big gambling companies, including GVC and Flutter are currently booming and surpassing pre CV19 prices. Yet all we continue to hear from the industry lobby group, The Betting and Gaming Council, is how much their industry is struggling through this crisis and hounding their old colleagues and contacts in government for taxpayer handouts.

Betfred, Ladbrokes & Coral withhold rent payments to landlords
Date: 17 March 2020 & 3 April 2020

Just a week after the billionaire Betfred fat cats made their ‘investment’ into William Hill, they decided, along with some of GVC’s subsiduaries, Ladbrokes and Coral, that they were withholding the rent payments for their land based bookie shops. The Betting and Gaming Council also lobbied the government hard when they discovered that certain fiscal relief wasn’t being given to the industry. The government back tracked and included the industry at the expense of taxpayer yet again.

UK HMRC ordered by court to pay gambling firms over £1bn
Date: 25 April 2020

Another story that conveniently slipped under the radar, following the BGC’s pathetic attempt of manipulating the Virtual Grand National into something good for the country, was the news that the taxpayer was being forced to give away over a £1bn to gambling companies, following a case brought against them by, yes you’ve guessed it, Billionaires Betfred nonetheless. The case relates to historic issues over VAT payments made on the toxic Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (fobts), which have caused endless misery for disordered gamblers up and down the country since the early 2000s. The HMRC still have the right to appeal and at a time of extreme and historic fiscal deficits, this is yet another smack in the face for the government and the taxpayer (us). Whilst the Betting and Gaming Council ‘donated’ the losing bets from the cartoon Virtual Grand National (note this donation is from punters), they appeared to make no comment on this story and weren’t quick to spin this into something else. Perhaps an industry with scruples would have dropped this case in light of the impending financial crisis we are about to suffer

BACTA begs for government help to sustain its fruit machine and child orientated gambling machines industry
Date: 19 March 2020

Another branch of the industry, The British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA) who have been responsible for supplying fruit machines to arcades and pubs up and down the country for decades, were the latest group to beg for a government/taxpayer handout. CEO John White said, ‘We know seaside arcades directly generate £451m in economic activity per year, similar to the contributions made by the fright and broadcasting sectors.’ He went onto say, ‘We need the government to act now and give our sea sides special consideration.’

The normalisation of gambling into the psyches of our children’s undeveloped brains, appears to be something that BACTA do well at avoiding accountability, until now. However, when it becomes impossible to visit a campsite or holiday resort in the UK, without arcades being the norm, with the vast array of tacky toys that our children can ‘purchase’ from their bulging pockets full of tokens, it seems now is a great time to ask the government to step in and change this toxic culture of allowing children free reign to play fruit machines and other skill-based games, whilst their parents sip their well-earned drinks in the bar next door, oblivious to the fact that their children are susceptible to becoming disordered gamblers. BACTA’s official website: bacta.org.uk (at the time of publishing this report) was inaccessible and had been suspended. The reasons for which aren’t currently clear.

Meanwhile, Wetherspoons fat cat CEO Tim Martin, was very quick to lay off his staff when the lockdown began and encouraged them to go and get jobs at supermarkets. Whilst his pubs have become the go-to venues for most, it’s becoming increasing clear that his pubs are turning into mini arcades with up to 13 fruit machines in each venue. With the impending review of the Gambling Act, coupled with Martin’s handling of his staff during this crisis, it would seem right to ask the government to closely look into restricting the number of these fruit machines to one per venue and add a higher tax rate to them to reflect the risks of harms these machines can have in creating and prolonging disordered gambling.