The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) popped up again this week after a lengthy silence, bemoaning that FOBT stakes haven’t yet been cut – less than a month after the decision was announced. Why are the CFG and their associated mouthpieces in such a crazed hurry?
FOBT stakes are going to be slashed. The process of transition has started. The CFG has achieved its dubious objective. Yet those at the CFG, their friends at BACTA (amusement arcade trade body), the casinos and a certain Member of Parliament want it done now – this minute. They shout that “£5 million is lost every day” on FOBTs or like Carolyn Harris MP claim that “every day that passes is another day that threatens vulnerable addicts”.
There are many gullible enough to believe the ramblings of the CFG and their Casino friends. Harris isn’t gullible. She has a record of cosying up to Lobbyists and has already been warned about her behaviour by the head of the trade association for lobbyists – “I would like to remind you of your obligations to behave ethically as this story undermines the reputation of the lobbying industry and the integrity of MPs”. I’m not sure she heeded that warning as she made some new lobbyist friends at Interel, whose clients include the leading casino and arcade companies involved in bringing down FOBTs. I’ll come back to Harris again.
Fortunately the CFG’s self-proclaimed “friends” at DCMS are not so gullible. They understand the intricacies of overhauling over 200 games that currently sit on 33,500 machines spread from Scotland to Cornwall. In the CFG’s often simplistic world it just boils down to flicking a switch. All those terminals and all those games need adjusting and after adjustment they need to be compliance checked. It took over 2 years to get FOBTs out there and as the Government is rightly trying to maintain a tax neutral changeover, the 2 year time frame being considered is a logical and realistic one.
The CFG ramblings also provide demeaning and hurtful comments to everyone employed in betting shops. They belittle the jobs the industry tries to create and point to a betting shop closing in Bolton as if it should be cause for celebration. The sad fact is that the founders and funders of CFG – multi millionaires from their casino card game inventions, living in multi million pound apartments between London and Las Vegas do not give a damn about the thousands of ordinary working people whose jobs and livelihoods are now on the line. Nor do their millionaire supporters in the casinos and amusement arcades. It’s collateral damage that won’t bother them in the slightest. The real issue for them is the “£5 million a day” that is going begging.
In usual CFG style they attack the Racing Post for presenting the bookmakers’ case and accuse them of a “commercially symbiotic relationship”. That’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black given that the founders of CFGs relationship with casinos and arcades could be described as commensalism. You can search high and low and you will find not a word, nor a rambling piece anywhere in which the CFG haul the high stake machines in their premises over the coals.
What the CFG do not like is alternative opinion to theirs and whoever do so publish it, will be attacked. Yet they tout anonymous “insider” information and “evidence” provided by the ever CFG reliable Howard Reed as though it should be believed without any doubt or aspersions being cast. A likely story and just for the record – none of Reed’s paid CFG work has been independently reviewed by any third party.
“As every day goes by without implementation the bookies rake in another £5 million” say the CFG in their summing up on Politics Home. Who would they prefer to rake in that “£5 million” if not the bookies? In their simplistic world do they really believe punters will start going to the Cinema instead, or they’ll take up DIY and leg it down to B & Q next bank holiday weekend instead of the bookies?
There has been a delusory cloud hovering over the anti-FOBT brigade in recent weeks and none more so than the CFG who now proclaim themselves the “friends” of DCMs. They also looked on the City of Westminster Council as one of their friends and allies in the FOBT battle, but Westminster has just dumped them. Instead of continuing to pursue betting shops with the same vengeance and grudge like tactics displayed by the CFG, the Council has now turned its attention to arcades saying “These adult arcades can have a higher number of high stake casino-style gaming machines on the premises, which may become a larger problem than FOBTs”. No mention of the arcades by the CFG, but their FOBT focused website says there are 105 betting shops in Westminster generating £27.3 million of profits.
For the CFG’s info there are also 14 Adult Gaming Arcades and 24 casinos in Westminster as well. Of those 14 arcades 9 are owned by companies who backed the discredited All Party Group on FOBTs and 5 casinos are owned by anti-betting shop backers who also supported the APPG. Like the CFG they are all jumping on the “£5 million a day” bandwagon.
Warwick Bartlett a betting industry veteran suggests that “FOBT revenue will be split between vaporisation, some will migrate over the counter, I would suggest 20%, and some on B3 play. Either way the loss of revenue will be significant.” The truth is nobody really knows, but the casinos and arcades smell a chance – a chance they’ve been waiting for so long, they just can’t wait any longer.
Real facts are presented in William Hills’ latest annual report which states that “In gaming, our regular programme of product launches saw B3 content increase to 36.5% of revenue”. So that means 63.5% of current FOBT revenue comes from the soon to be banned B2 aspect (stakes above £2). In Westminster that represents £17.3 million of B2 profits that those in the anti-betting shop brigade want to come through their doors instead.
It is not enough for the CFG, their Casino and arcade friends and MPs that they have brought about the decimation of thousands of jobs in betting shops – they want those jobs destroyed this minute in what would be an immediate cull of over 20,000 decent hard working people’s livelihoods, with no plans in place to save even a few of those jobs. I can only express utter disgust at these people and a genuine shame that I ever worked for them.