The chief executives of UK’s largest betting and gambling firms have withdrawn from a scheduled parliamentary session dedicated to discussing online betting and the dangers of it. During the official hearing, the gambling chiefs were due to be questioned on the measures taken by their businesses for reducing the gambling problem in the country.
The heads of the three biggest gambling companies in the United Kingdom, namely of William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Flutter Entertainment (known until recently as Paddy Power Betfair), had initially confirmed their participation in a parliamentary session that had to discuss various issues associated with online gambling, the Guardian reported on Monday. The hearing will be held Wednesday as part of an inquiry organized by the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group.
All three of the above-mentioned execs, however, pulled from the meeting, causing disappointment among certain Members of Parliament, who described the move as “outrageous”. The online publication is citing Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, who is the head of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on gambling harm and who was apparently shocked by the gambling bosses’ decision not to take part in the discussions. According to her, these individuals were “afraid” to participate in the session since their companies profited from the “vulnerable” communities and fed addictions.
After claiming to have seen several emails, the Guardian reveals that Kenny Alexander, GVC’s chief executive, was the first to cancel his appearance before the MPs. This happened shortly after he received an email, originally sent to Harris, from a gambling addict. The person, described only as a compulsive gambler, said that Ladbrokes Coral had allowed him to spend a lot of money despite seeing that he was clearly a gambling addict.
A spokesperson for GVC explained that Alexander’s withdrawal from the session was due to business commitments. However, cancellations from the heads of other gambling firms who were invited at Westminster this Wednesday soon followed.
MPs Consider Betting Firms Complicit in UK’s Gambling Problem
Soon after Kenny Alexander cancelled his attendance, William Hill’s chief executive, Philip Bowcock, explained that he could not take part in the session due to shareholder meetings and commitments linked with licensing procedures in the UK. Still, Phil Walker, who is responsible for William Hill’s online betting in the UK and Ireland, will attend, according to the Guardian.
Peter Jackson, Flutter Entertainment Chief Executive, also cancelled, saying that “unforeseen travel” would prevent him from going. Jackson is sending Dan Taylor, chief executive of European operations for Paddy Power and Betfair. The British newspaper adds that Betfred will not be represented at the meeting, unlike bet365 and SkyBet, which are expected to send their chief executives.
Commenting betting companies’ refusal to discuss the measures taken to reduce gambling harm, Iain Duncan Smith MP told the Guardian that the non-attendance reveals betting firms’ complicity in UK’s current gambling problem. The ongoing inquiry of the parliamentary group aims at examining the effects of online gambling, including the negative impact seen on vulnerable groups such as children. With the hearings they have held so far, MPs have been focusing on the “addictive nature” of certain online gambling products and the harms that could potentially arise from them.