2020: Gambling as entertainment is a ‘sod’ to market

During 2006 you’re sat in a meeting room in Stoke, London, Gibraltar or Malta following an email from your CEO that outlines your company must sell, sell, sell and not miss the fantastic opportunities that market liberalisation will offer.

For years this was easy; millions, even billions around the world like a ‘bet’ and do it safely.  Look at the Grand National, the Melbourne Cup and Premier League football, people love having a bet on these sporting events.  The meetings around Europe and yes the world were finished by lunch and the participants playing golf by 2.00pm at the latest.  The world was good and the growth in turnover and profits were very satisfactory indeed.

Imagine the same rooms in 2020.  The CEO’s email now has caveats, including the word ‘entertainment’ as the central marketing theme, but profit is still ‘King’.  How can this be achieved when the CEO’s email contains other caveats like the following:

  1. Not pushing our most profitable customers to other competitors by checking if their losses are affordable in order to meet our social responsibilities, thus avoiding regulatory fines and negative media stories.
  2. To continue restricting all skilled customers even those who use £25 stakes and below whilst keeping this as quiet as possible. This has additional costs, e.g. keeping commercial partners and influential people quiet (you know who you are).
  3. Avoid breaching any advertising, competition or privacy laws just in case any governments and their regulators bother to look.
  4. Keep all our present staff in a job.
  5. Still fund treatment for the harm gambling causes and provide millions for ‘good causes’ to educate people about the dangers of gambling to avoid the ‘fun’ (entertainment) in the future stopping for as many as possible.
  6. Despite 1-5 keep our investors happy by producing annual profit growth.

All this means the golf has been cancelled and the clubs are on e-bay.

How different may it have been if the industry in 2016 had met with people who were pretty happy with legalised gambling and discussed constructively the concepts of ‘safe, fair and open’ whilst still maintaining a healthy industry!  But the industry didn’t and their trade bodies effectively told these people to ‘sod’ off.  Hopefully, now the industry recognises who would have been easiest to deal with.

After five years of volunteering, four of which have involved reading horrendous stories of lives ruined I (BC) intend to dramatically reduce my workload and involvement over the coming months.  I would like to congratulate the few gambling companies and associated industry people who have bothered to engage with us and other campaigners, both in public and especially in private.  You knew that no money would be changing hands and that the agenda would therefore always be challenging, but you recognised the possible constructive outcomes.

Don’t blame J4P and other campaigners for the lack of progress and the present 2020 situation, blame your competitors and notably the arrogance and stupidity of those who threatened to sue the BBC for running well evidenced stories. You know who you are if you’re reading this.  J4P has never been about ‘hanging people out to dry’, so we won’t, but you’ve done a massive disservice to your industry.  Keep quiet and keep drawing the huge salaries though; it’s what you’re used to.

The Gambling Commission also deserve a mention.  A bit like the BBC they have an impossible job.  Perhaps it’s a good sign that most parties think they’re doing a less than efficient job?  However, J4P’s experience has been that the GC doesn’t support constructive ’round table’ discussion involving all parties.  If you ‘cut the GC’s cloth’ you’ll be in as J4P was when Sarah Harrison was CEO, if you don’t, you’re out of any of the central action as J4P is now.

As I (BC) step back but don’t stop campaigning, maybe I could be attracted by the 1-3K + VAT daily consultancy rates that some are drawing from the gambling industry (+ expenses of course).  You’d be surprised who some of these people and organisations are.  People do leak documents, but you won’t be finding out from J4P who and who features in them.  But who knows who might leak in the future and to whom.

Perhaps a favourite comedy programme for many should finish this blog when referring to where the gambling industry is now and what it needs urgently?

“Bugger,” said Lt George.  “We need another cunning plan,” said Baldrick.  “You certainly do,” said Jimmy Justice.