Tom Watson, the former Labour Party Deputy Leader has hit the headlines for taking a job with Flutter Entertainment, an Irish gambling group who are aiming to impose stricter problem gambling tools to tackle what is being labelled as a growing epidemic!
Mr Watson’s role will be to advise the brands behind the group which include Paddy Power, PokerStars and Sky Betting and Gaming to deploy a plethora of practices which will be rolled out across all of its betting shops as well as in marketing, customer service and their anti-money laundering department.
The notoriously out-spoken Mr Watson who was one of parliament’s most virulent campaigners on gambling reform aims to tackle the issues from within, instead of from the outside. He will be paid on delivering solutions on problem gambling although very little is known on the salary. What we do know is Flutter Entertainment paid him a retainer which is estimated to be somewhere in the region of £100K!
The UK Government is to take a review of the gambling law later in the year and Watson’s appointment comes ahead of what many believe could be sweeping changes to the regulation of gambling as a whole! He said: “I have a longstanding interest in this sector and have consistently called for action to protect those who may be potentially vulnerable to harm. In taking on this role in Flutter, I intend to get under the bonnet of the business – and the industry more widely – to understand how best to further develop and implement industry-leading responsible gambling policies. I strongly believe that working collaboratively with Flutter in this way will allow me to continue to drive positive change.”
Tom Watson commented on his new private-sector role:
“I have a long-standing interest in this sector and consistently called for action to protect those that may be potentially vulnerable to harm. In taking on this role in Flutter, I intend to get under the bonnet of the business – and the industry more widely – to understand how best to further develop and implement industry-leading responsible gambling policies. I strongly believe that working collaboratively with Flutter in this way will allow me to continue to drive positive change”.
Flutter Group CEO Peter Jackson said:
“Bringing in someone with Tom’s gambling reform background is an important part of my commitment to lead the industry’s race to the top. We have to work harder than ever before to find a way to continue to bring great products and brands to our customers while always having the need to protect the vulnerable clearly in mind. Tom will hold a mirror up to help us make sure we are getting this balance right and I welcome the opportunity to work with him and hear what he has to say in coming months.”
Watson, a vocal advocate for gambling reform is expected to bring his expertise to the company and challenge the practices put forward by the firm in a commitment to deliver safer gambling on levels not seen before. From the shop floor to online operations, his voice will be used to protect vulnerable customers at all times
But there are many who believe Watson’s role could jeopardise all the hard work MP’s have previously done!
Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former advisor to Jeremy Corbyn (the ex-Labour leader) when Watson was deputy leader revealed his concerns when speaking to the mainstream media last week, he said:
“We hope Flutter doesn’t stand in the way of the reforms their new adviser once proposed.”
After all, it wasn’t long ago Paddy Power, one of the leading brands owned by Watson’s new employer, hit the headlines when a one-off friendly football match between Huddersfield United and Rochdale resulted in a hefty fine of £50K being handed down! But why? Huddersfield took to the pitch on July 17th with the Paddy Power logo appearing to exceed the Football Association’s (FA) guidelines of 250 square centimetres – it was huge running from the right hip to the left shoulder.
The morning of the match, the Championship football team were warned by the FA that if they went ahead with their shirt choice, there would be repercussions, but proceeded anyway. Ann Hough, the team’s operations manager insisted that the shirt was a one-off spoof but went ahead despite knowing what the consequences would be.
But it’s not the first time the company has hit the headlines! In 2018, Paddy Power Betfair was fined a staggering £2.2million for failing to stop the use of stolen money being gambled through its website and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) said the company failed to protect customers who showed alarming signs of having a problem gambling issue.
Part of the UKGC’s findings revealed how the former boss of Birmingham Dogs Home, Simon Price, had gambled more than £900K in which he stole from the charity through the company’s Betfair platform and as a result of this, he was sentenced to 4-years in prison. Systematic failings were highlighted in the report which included weaknesses in their ‘wealth and social responsibility’ check (also known as SOF; source of funds checks).
Of the £2.2m fine, Gamble Aware received £1.7m and the £900K stolen from the dog’s charity in Birmingham was returned to its rightful owner. Tom Watson has his work cut out for him that’s for sure, especially when you have persons of authority within a company ignoring the rules and carrying on regardless.
According to Gamble Aware, an independent charity whose sole purpose is to help eradicate problem gambling, the number of people with a gambling addiction has soared and is much higher than previously thought. YouGov who polled the survey revealed up to 2.7% of adults in the UK – that’s some 1.4million people, were identified as problem gamblers! As many as 7% of adults (3.6million people) have reported as being affected by someone else’s gambling problem. Labour MP, Carolyn Harris who chairs the cross-party group of MP’s examining gambling harm said the outcome of the research was “deeply concerning”.