Gambling across borders

A blog about the productive life of risk

Westminster eForum: Next steps for gambling policy: regulation, taxation and new opportunities

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On 20th May 2014 the Westminster eForum hosted a Keynote Seminar titled: Next steps for gambling policy: regulation, taxation and new opportunities. It was attended by industry and policy makers, consultants and lawyers. These events are extraordinary opportunities to see at first hand how the field of gambling policy is constructed.

Philip Davies MP had some interesting advice for the industry in the run up to the general election. First, he said, they need to ‘concentrate more on the messenger rather than the message.’ Politicians are not sympathetic to representatives of big bookmakers, he explained, but they might be interested in the plight of single shop owners. Secondly, he said, ‘they’ve got to start arguing on the politicians’ terms, not based on evidence.’

He continued, ‘This idea that decisions in politics are taken on evidence is for the birds, quite frankly, and politicians will always say it’s going to be evidence based, of course they are, they are not going to say we’ve got no interest in the evidence whatsoever, but just because they say that decisions are going to be evidence based doesn’t mean to say that they are going to be evidence based, and they’re not. I mean do you really think Harriet Harman is going to sit and listen to the evidence and sit down after a meeting and say, do you know what, I think I was wrong about that. Of course she’s not going to say that, she just wants to hear the evidence that she thinks will reinforce what she already believes, so it’s no good going along armed with loads of evidence, you’ve actually got to go along and focus your message based on where the politician is coming from, not where you think the politician should be coming from.’3420742147_d2798380db_b

This statement attributes a particular decision making technique to Harriet Harman, who was not there to respond. What about Davies? He did not exempt himself from his observation about decision making. Should his constituents applaud his honesty and their luck in discovering a conviction politician? Or worry that they are represented by someone who chooses to rely on his own judgement, irrespective of the insights of others who might conceivably be better informed?

His position echoes those of policy makers quoted in Fair Game. They told us that politicians use evidence about gambling selectively: to support their existing positions, to criticize their opponents and, most prosaically, to buy time in order to delay policy decisions.

Speaking of which, Clive Efford MP, Shadow Minister for Sport, has put a great deal of weight on the machines research to be published by the Responsible Gambling Trust in November. He told the audience, ‘If the research that is currently being done for the Responsible Gambling Trust shows that there is a link between the stakes and prizes on FOBTs and problem gambling, then I will call for them to be removed.’ What kind of link does he have in mind? In previous discussions of FOBTs, evidence of a ‘causal link’ between machines and problem gambling has been called for before any changes are made to policy. Will the machine research provide him with this evidence? Or has he decided to abandon this standard of proof in favour of lower level associations between particular products and behaviours?


The core sponsors of the Westminster eForum are: Arqiva, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BT, ISBA – the Voice of British Advertisers, KPMG and O2.

Rebecca Cassidy’s attendance at the Westminster eForum (£210 plus VAT) was paid for by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 263443

Agenda – Next steps for gambling policy: regulation, taxation and new opportunities [PDF]


Written by samkelly2014

July 31, 2014 at 12:59 pm

One Response

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  1. […] a Westminster event I’ve written about previously I told Clive Efford that the research would not answer the impossible question, ‘Do FOBTs cause […]

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