FOBT report censured by Standards Commissioner

FOBT report censured by Standards Commissioner

Monday, May 8, 2017
ABB had called the original report a 'kangaroo court'

The Parliamentary inquiry into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, branded a ‘kangaroo court’ by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has been heavily censured by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The Commissioner Kathryn Hudson has found MPs on the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) guilty of breaking the rules four times with their report into FOBTs in UK betting shops a decision that the ABB feels justified its stance in not taking part.

ABB chief executive Malcom George commented said that this highlighted ‘the flimsy research and secrecy behind this fatally flawed and deeply discredited report’.

The MPs’ All-Party Group was funded by several commercial rivals of Britain’s bookies including organisations with strong links to casinos and arcades.

George said: “This group of MPs are now revealed as serial offenders for their misleading report about gaming machines in betting shops. We are delighted the Standards Commissioner recognised four clear breaches of the rules and upheld our complaint.

“The flimsy research and secrecy behind this fatally flawed and deeply discredited report has now been laid bare. MPs have been rightly criticised for their woeful lack of transparency. This small and unrepresentative group of anti-FOBT MPs failed to make it clear they were funded by vested interests included commercial rivals of High Street bookmakers.”

“The group failed to keep proper records of which parliamentarians, if any, came to their secretive meetings. The MPs’ report has been exposed as a shambolic, shoddy and one-sided piece of work that has broken a long list of parliamentary rules.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the MPs’ group, has made an apology over the breaches and rectified the mistakes, which included failing to make clear the free help the MPs received from a public affairs company employed by direct competitors of High Street bookmakers.

The MPs’ report - published on January 31 - called for a £2 per spin maximum to be imposed on all FOBTs in a move that would threaten thousands of jobs at High Street bookmakers.

In her 24-page report outlining her probe into the ABB chairman’s complaints, Hudson said: “I have upheld your allegation of a breach of the rules by the APPG. Ms Harris has acknowledged and apologised on behalf of the group for the breaches I have identified.”

Questions are now being asked about the role and funding arrangements of Interel – the public affairs firm that compiled the report.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found the MPs’ group:

• Failed to record who attended the group’s meetings or take proper minutes

• Failed to put an official disclaimer on their report to make clear it was not an official House of Commons publication

• Failed to meet a rule on transparency by making clear it received free help from public affairs company Interel – a firm that works for direct rivals of High Street bookmakers

• Failed to reveal Interel’s status as a donor on the report’s front cover

Under the parliamentary rules governing APPGs: “Groups must be transparent about their nature, membership and funding. In particular, they must avoid presenting themselves in a way which could lead to confusion with Select Committees.”

The rules add: “If a report or other publication has been compiled or funded by an external individual or organisation, this should be made clear on the front cover (or equivalent - If it is an online publication) through wording such as: “This Report was researched by xxx and funded by xxx”.

The FOBTs All-Party Group has published two reports: the ‘FOBT APPG Interim report’ published on 6 Dec 2016 and the ‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals Inquiry report’ on 31st January 2017.

The ABB pointed out that neither of the reports complied with the rules that insist they must make clear on the front cover (or equivalent online publication) that the report has been compiled or funded by an external individual or organisation.

Totally Gaming says: While the announcement of the General Election has drawn some of the venom from the ‘imminent’ review into stakes and prizes, the issue of FOBTs and a level playing field across the industry has been a bone of contention for over 15 years and shows no sign of abating any time soon. Just last week the BACTA CEO called again for a stake reduction for FOBTs in an interview with TotallyGaming.com

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