DCMS are only interested in
The anti-gambling lobby persistently argue that the gambling industry holds enormous sway over government. They imply that with the revenues government earns via taxation and more importantly, its largesse with political donations, it keeps the government dancing to the industry’s tune. Or as they state:
Too often, the UK Government and policy makers have employed discourses that align more closely with those of the gambling industry than with those of the individuals, families, and communities affected by the harms of gambling.
More extreme versions of this argument can be found in their books, whose titles suggest that their foundations may be found in either far left wing political ideology or even conspiracy theory. Do try and pick up a copy of Dr. Rebecca Cassidy’s Vicious games: capitalism and gambling or Prof. Jim Orford’s The gambling establishment: challenging the power of the modern gambling industry and its allies. Add to this Henrietta Bowden-Jones’s Harm Reduction for Gambling - A Public Health Approach or Gambling, Who Wins? Who Loses? edited by Prof. Gerda Reith and you have a full house of anti-gambling activist academics who think that British government is just a tool of Big Gambling. Bizarrely, the most industry-funded-career prolific anti-gambling activist academic, Prof Heather Wardle, has not yet succumbed to this accusation in print. Her only book so far; Games Without Frontiers? Socio-historical Perspectives on the Gaming/Gambling Intersection, is just a tedious attack on social gaming, however, we can be pretty certain that she agrees as a fully paid up member of this puritanical cult, known as the Public Health Approach to Gambling (PHAG). I introduced my readers to PHAG in this article: https://www.gamblingconsultant.co.uk/december-2022-6-years-on
In my most recent article, Calling Bullsh*t on Bloomberg - Part One, I pull apart Bloomberg’s allegation that British gambling was covering British members of Parliament in cash to keep them sweet. If anything, my research into lobbying expenditure shows that it mostly comes from the trade association, the Betting & Gaming Council, as you would it expect and that it is paltry, basically taking them racing, compared to the largesse of Derek Webb, who funds both the All Party Group on Gambling Harms in the Commons and the Peers for Gambling Reform group in the Lords as well as much of the research that is used as evidence in the evidence-based policy making that DCMS is supposed to be doing.
What all our anti-gambling activist academics and the authors of some of the most anti-gambling ‘research’ funded by Derek Webb have in common is that they have all had a meeting with a Minister from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. Such meetings with Ministers are probably the most overt way influence can be exerted on the policy process. So in order to assess whether the British gambling industry is exerting enormous influence over government, analysis of the meetings they’ve held with DCMS Ministers is as important as looking at political donations.
Yet again, in another bit of research that surely the Betting & Gaming Council should undertake or at least fund, I decided to look at the records of DCMS Ministerial meetings which are made available on their website. I looked at all gambling related meetings with DCMS Ministers for the last ten years. I excluded any meeting with organisations not directly related with gambling, such as TV companies discussing gambling advertising. I disregarded anything to do with the horserace betting levy, the National Lottery, society lotteries and greyhound racing. Why? Because these are not really politically contentious topics, part of the ongoing political debate. I recorded each meeting using the data provided which is little more than the Minister who held the meeting, it’s date (sometimes, just a month and year), who was present and the topic of the meeting.
This, therefore leads to the qualifications. This analysis is only as good as the data supplied by the Civil Service and my own analytical skills. Both of which have been found wanting in the past. I have then coded all the data to itemise whether the meeting was involving pro-gambling or anti-gambling or neutral participants. By this I took any gambling company or gambling trade association to be pro-gambling and any organisation that looked at problem gambling to be anti-gambling, such as GamCare, GambleAware, Responsible Gambling Trust, Responsible Gambling Strategy Board etc. The decision that pains me the most is calling some meetings with the Gambling Commission neutral. It is my ardent belief that our regulator is vehemently anti-gambling but a regulator who is an agency of DCMS and thus expected to have meetings with its effective ‘boss’ has to be tabulated in a separate way as its meetings with DCMS are expected and not due to the whim of the Department. Meetings it had with pro-gambling organisations were coded pro-gambling, meetings it had with anti-gambling groups were coded anti-gambling. I then coded meetings based on whether they were about gambling policy or about problem gambling. This was mostly down to what was written in the meeting description but in a few cases interpretation was needed. I would therefore argue that this is not 100% perfect but definitely in the high 90% range. I should add that some entries may be duplications, as in more than one Minister attended, I have tried to weed them all out but, again, I am not perfect.
Ministerial meetings are chosen by the Private Office of the Minister. They may be in response to a request from the outside body to have a meeting or be a request from the Private Office as the Minister needs/wants a briefing. This needs/wants issue is also pertinent. A Minister can request meetings off their own backs and can refuse meetings suggested by the Private Office. The extent to which it is the Private Office or the Minister directing who the Minister meets is always unknown. Generally, MPs who have never been Ministers before or only have a few years’ service as one will take more direction from their Private Office than those who are old hands. But, personal character and individual knowledge of a topic, or lack of it, will also play a part. As to what influence that a meeting will have on a Minister is also unknown, as they maybe open-minded on a topic and open to be influenced or closed minded on a topic and just having the meeting so it looks like a balanced approach has been taken.
The purpose of the analysis is either prove or disprove the assertion of activist anti-gambling academics that the British gambling industry exerts significant influence over the government by showing whether or not it has had a disproportionate number of meetings with the government that would indicate such influence. A proviso to this is that DCMS is the government department responsible for gambling so it would be expected for there to be a relatively significant number of meetings between DCMS and the industry.
There were 157 DCMS Ministerial Meetings held from January 2012 until the 10th August 2022 that fulfilled the criteria. These were held with the Ministers with responsibility for gambling: John Penrose MP, Sir Hugh Robertson MP, Helen Grant MP, Tracey Crouch MP, Mims Davies MP, Helen Whatley MP, Nigel Huddlestone MP, John Whittingdale OBE MP, Chris Philp MP and Damian Collins MP. Yes, that is basically an average of one gambling Minister per year!
The Secretaries of State, the political boss of DCMS also held gambling related meetings, these were: Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, Jeremy Wright MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Oliver Dowden MP and Nadine Dorries MP. Titles given are as recorded by the Civil Service and may not reflect the current or existing status of the Minister.
Two Ministers also attended gambling related meetings: Baroness Neville Rolfe, who was a DCMS Minister in the Lords and the Rt Hon David Evennett MP, who was temporary Minister with responsibility for gambling, while Tracy Crouch MP was on maternity leave.
They met with 84 differently named organisations. I call it this as some companies have merged over time and changed names and some trade associations have changed names. I will try and highlight this where I can. Obviously, the organisation who met with Ministers the most, as expected is the Gambling Commission (29 times, 18% of meetings). I use the term times rather than meetings as I don’t want to give the impression an organisation met by themselves, most meetings have more than one organisation present, so what I am tabulating below is how many times an organisation met with Ministers not the number of meetings a Minister had with an organisation, although I do highlight it when an organisation has met a Minister on their own, as this is quite rare and implies the potential for extra influence to be exerted.
The gambling companies who met Ministers came from every sector, many of whom are in more than one sector: Betting: Coral (now Entain), Ladbrokes (now Entain), William Hill (now 888), Paddy Power (now Flutter), Betfair (now Flutter), Bet 365, Roar Betting, Sky Betting & Gaming (now Flutter), JenningsBet, GVC (now Entain), Sportech, BetFred, Kindred, Entain, Flutter and BetWay. Bingo: Gala Bingo (now Buzz Bingo), Rank Group, Castle Leisure, Club 3000, Buzz Bingo, Gamesys and Merkur (part of Gausellman). Casinos: London Clubs International (now Caesars) Genting, Rank Group, Caesars, Aspers Group, the Hippodrome and Les Ambassadeurs. Slots (AGC/FEC/Supplier): AGM Holdings, Praesepe (now Merkur), Merkur (Gausellman), Talarius (now Novomatic), The Global Draw (now part of Light & Wonder), Inspired Entertainment, Scientific Games (now Light & Wonder), Novomatic, Cullis Amusements and Namco.
The gambling companies who met with Ministers the most were:
Bet365 14 times
William Hill 14 times
Rank Group 12 times
Betfair 9 times
Sky Betting & Gaming 9 times
Genting 8 times
Paddy Power 8 times
Hippodrome 7 times
Flutter 7 times
These are understandable due partly to the large numbers they employ, especially in areas like Stoke on Trent (Bet365), Leeds (Sky Betting & Gaming & William Hill) and historically London (Betfair & William Hill) and spread out across the country (William Hill, Rank Group & Genting). Bet365 is also notable for its refusal to take its online operation offshore and the impressive amount of taxes it pays, including the significant personal tax payments and charitable giving of the Coates family. Considering its one site location, the Hippodrome does rather well and is the only gambling company to appear on the register of Ministerial hospitality, after an almost decade long hiatus since the heady days of John Penrose MP having lunch with Ladbrokes and Gala/Coral. Maybe this is due to them sharing the same lobbying firm as Derek Webb’s favourite politicians?
None of these companies have ever held a meeting alone with a Minister, with the exception of William Hill. In general, they have always been in the company of other gambling companies and one or more trade associations. It appears that when it comes to dealing with the gambling industry, DCMS prefers to do it ‘mob handed’ in the form of round tables. This is not always the case with anti-gambling groups as will be shown later. Another exception to this is where Bet365 has had two Ministerial visits to its Stoke on Trent offices, once by John Whittingdale MP in 2021 and once by Chris Philp MP in 2022, now doubt both due to the lobbying of Stoke on Trent MPs.
Industry trade associations have been received numerous times by DCMS, yet raw numbers do not provide for simplistic analysis as the emergence of the Betting & Gaming Council has meant the abolition of the Association of British Bookmakers, the National Casino Industry Forum/National Casino Forum and the Remote Gambling Association. Ever present has been the slots trade association, BACTA and the Bingo Association and the land based association, the Gambling Business Group. Furthermore, over our time period, arguably some sectors have warranted more meetings than others due to the political issues of the day. The number of industry trade association meetings are:
Betting & Gaming Council 17 times
BACTA 16 times
Bingo Association 11 times
Association of British Bookmakers 9 times
National Casino Industry Forum/National Casino Forum 9 times
Remote Gaming Association 4 times
Gambling Business Group 1 time
The majority of these meetings were, as mentioned before, held with members of the relevant industry sector, but there were also a number of round tables where more than one trade association was invited.
Trade associations and gambling companies make up the category I have called pro-gambling. This category has had a total of 80 meetings with Ministers or rather bizarrely a fraction over 50% of all DCMS Ministerial meetings directly dealing with gambling were with the gambling industry and its representatives. Considering that 8 of the industry meetings were to deal with the Covid-19 lockdown measures, if these are removed, then DCMS apparently thinks that the industry it is responsible for, warrants only 45% of the meetings it is willing to give on the topic. This does give some evidence to the allegation of anti-gambling bias within the Department as it could be expected that a far greater number of meetings would be pro-gambling. This will be explored more now we consider the anti-gambling category of Ministerial meeting recipients.
As stated above, I consider the Gambling Commission to be the most proactively anti-gambling organisation operating in the political sphere during this time period. For another day, would be an analysis that shows that the reign of Sarah Harrison as Chief Executive, from 01/10/2015 to 28/02/2018, is when the Commission started to be actively working against the industry. Also, as stated above, is the unfortunate need to tabulate 17 of the Commission’s 29 meetings as neutral as the remainder were either held with the industry (so a pro-gambling meeting) or with anti-gambling groups (an anti-gambling meeting). Whilst I believe in the one to one with the Minister, the Gambling Commission dripped their anti-gambling poison into his/her ears, for the sake of good methodology, these meetings will be categorised as neutral. Although, it is possible to imagine, in the average of almost 3 meetings the Commission had with Ministers a year, c.20 were anti-gambling.
The first sub-group of the anti-gambling group are those who I consider part of the infrastructure of the industry. If questioned, I am certain that many would argue that they are neutral in the gambling debate, I would argue they all through statements and deeds have put themselves in the anti-gambling camp to differing degrees. The least arguably is the main treatment charity, GamCare. Then there is the Responsible Gambling Fund, who had a short life due to falling out with the industry over how to award funding. Then we have two organisations who have got vociferously anti-gambling over time, the Responsible Gambling Trust, who turned into GambleAware and is currently fighting a losing battle to retain its role in funding Research, Education and Treatment with the industry’s money. The irony being that they’ve spent increasing amounts of it on funding anti-gambling groups, some of whom we will consider later. Then there is the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB), now called the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG), which is the Gambling Commission’s academic advisory body. This is where the anti-gambling cult of PHAG originated and once was the home of its chief puritans, Gerda Reith and Heather Wardle. The RGSB convinced the Gambling Commission to adopt the cult of PHAG and as the ABSG continues to forego science for anti-gambling ideology. Infrastructure meetings were:
GamCare 6 times
Responsible Gambling Fund 1 time
Responsible Gambling Trust 1 time
GambleAware 9 times
Responsible Gambling Strategy Board 4 times
These numbers, when you consider that these organisations were set up at the beginning of the Gambling Act 2005 era (GamCare and the predecessor to RGT were set up prior the Act) all had a level of industry, or at least pro-industry involvement, are relatively paltry. The industry involvement has all been removed now and as stated above, the majority can be considered to be actively in opposition of the gambling industry. With the chance of a mandatory levy meaning the end of the need for RGT/GambleAware that could hopefully mean an end to industry money being blatantly used to fund those who campaign against it.
The next anti-gambling group is made up of those who have financially profited from the gambling industry. As many political commentators have argued, when it comes to hand-outs, there are the deserving and the un-deserving. Definitely deserving are the good people at the Gordon Moody Association, that provides residential treatment for problem gamblers and YGAM, a charity which goes into schools and colleges to teach kids about the risks of gambling. Both admirable and both worthy of industry funding. Then we have those who you could on the face of it consider to be worthy but by their outputs are definitely not. These are the NHS funded problem gambling clinics in the North (Leeds) and London. These would seem to be a righteous cause for funding if it wasn’t for the virulently anti-gambling spoutings of their bosses; Matthew Gaskell and Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones, who are fully paid up members of the PHAG cult, I recommend that you find them on Twitter to see their vitriol.
Then we have the PHAG raw in blood and claw, Public Health organisations such as the now renamed due to being sh*t in Covid-19, Public Health England (PHE), The Association of Directors of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health. PHE are responsible for the farcical reports; Gambling-related harms evidence review: the economic and social cost of harms in 2021, and Policies and interventions to reduce harmful gambling: an international Delphi consensus and implementation rating study in 2022. The former would argue, amongst other exaggeratory claims, that gambling causes over 400 suicides a year amongst. This was based on the blatantly incorrect interpretation of a solitary Swedish study. Only due to the dogged determination of Regulus Partners (https://www.reguluspartners.com/) via FOI requests and Parliamentary Questions was this study reconsidered, by a biased panel, and the lower range given as 117. See my article here for more about the BS written by Public Health https://www.gamblingconsultant.co.uk/march-2022-losing-the-information-war The latter study proposed banning all gambling advertising, banning all in-play betting, mandatory maximum bet limits and bans on all gambling promotions. The Association of Directors of Public Health have made many a submission to government on behalf of the PHAG cause and the Royal Society for Public Health operate the Gambling Health Alliance.
The Gambling Health Alliance is worthy of some commentary as it is a fine example of how PHAG has warped the traditional concepts of the Enlightenment approach to science and medicine. Traditionally scientists and I include those in the NHS and academia were there to either research or to cure. The realm of public policy was one they kept clear of on the whole or at least would pass comment on based on sound evidence. What we have with PHAG is the emergence of politically activist academic and health workers politically campaigning on little or no scientific evidence. For them this is excused by the precautionary principle and they repeatedly state that not having the evidence is not a reason not to act. While there may be reason for this in some instances, the fact that part of the Public Health and therefore PHAG credo is to embrace political activism and political activists means the Gambling Health Alliance has practically all of the anti-gambling pressure groups as its members as well as academia and the NHS. Surely by joining such groups, PHAG members reveal their hands as no longer being scientists acting on the basis of research but simply ideologues, opposed to gambling. An analogy would be your local MP showing legitimate concerns about illegal immigration because of pressure on jobs, social services etc and then joining arms with the British National Party and other right wing extremists. As George Bernard Shaw said “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.” Anti-gambling rhetoric form anti-gambling groups can be found in PHAG literature. The irony of all of this is that the Gambling Health Alliance has been funded by GambleAware, using gambling industry money.
Meetings held with DCMS Ministers for this sub-group were:
Gordon Moody 4 times
YGAM 1 time
NHS Northern Gambling Service 4 times
National Problem Gambling Clinic 9 times
Public Health England 1 time
The Association of Directors of Public Health 1 time
The Royal Society for Public Health 1 time
Another group profiteering from the gambling industry’s money in the name of bad science are the universities; the University of Birmingham which is home to the ‘old man’ of anti-gambling academia, Prof Jim Orford, whose anti-gambling pressure group Gambling Watch is widely publicised on the university website, the University of Oxford whose expertise via Muggleton et al in research managed to not notice when looking at gambling expenditure that gamblers actually win money and spend cash to gamble, the University of Glasgow who has working for it two of the high priestesses of the anti-gambling church, Heather Wardle and Gerda Reith and from Australia, the very birthplace of PHAG, Deakin University which had one of its earliest advocates, Prof. Linda Hancock. It should be noted that the meetings just have the names of the universities attending and we cannot be certain that these actual people were present. The one academic named is Rebecca Cassidy, an anthropologists from Goldsmiths, who learnt to hate gambling when spending time in a bookmakers as part of her research and constantly being told to cheer up. She still also holds the crown, in a very tough field, for the most methodologically piss poor piece of research to do with gambling, Fairgame – Producing Gambling Research which ignores the need for evidence in her quest for unlimited research funding.
To add to this group are the waifs and strays. They are linked to anti-gambling but to call them such may be a bit strong but they are in no ways cheerleaders for the gambling industry. Firstly there is Public Health Sheffield. As far as I can find the Director of Public Health for Sheffield has not particularly come out as a rabid anti-gambler, but Sheffield University has a School of Health and Related Research which has come out with some low quality research to grab headlines about gambling, so that maybe the reason they were invited. Being victim to what the Civil Service write as who attends we can only guess. Then we have GamBan, who have developed gambling website blocking software. Admirable enough until you realise that one of its co-founders was Matt Zorba-Cousin, paid lackey of both Corbyn and Derek Webb and virulent anti-gambler but one suspects could be virulently anti-anything of there was a wage in it. Definitely not in the realm of being overt anti-gamblers is the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute which has been working with financial institutions to help them deal with gambling-related debt. Less clear about whether they are overtly anti-gambling are the charities GamFam and GamLearn, that provide support to problem gamblers and affected others and are made up of ex-problem gamblers. The issue being that the GamFam patron is Carolyn Harris MP, co-Chair of the rabidly anti-gambling All Party Group for Gambling Harms. The number of meetings held with DCMS Minister by these groups were:
University of Birmingham 2 times
University of Oxford 2 times
University of Glasgow 2 times
Deakin University 1 time
Rebecca Cassidy 1 time
Public Health Sheffield 1 time
GamBan 1 time
Money & Mental Health Institute 1 time
GamFam 1 time
Gam Learn 1 time
The majority of these groups met with Chris Philp MP, a notoriously anti-gambling Minister, in November 2021 and January 2022 and with John Whittingdale MP, a notoriously pro-gambling Minister at a roundtable on gambling harms held in April 2021.
A side note in gambling’s political history is The Chadlington Consultancy’s 5 meetings with DCMS Ministers between March and June 2019. The Chadlington Consultancy is the corporate and strategic communications consultancy run by Lord Chadlington, previously known as Peter Selwyn Gummer, advisor to David Cameron MP, brother to Tory Minister John Gummer, an anti-gambler involved in every major gambling debate since the Gambling Act. His (or his representative’s) presence at the March 2019, Gambling Harms Roundtable with the Minister Mims Davies MP and the National Problem Gambling Clinic; Gambling with Lives; Rebecca Cassidy; Public Health England; Local Government Association; GambleAware; Responsible Gambling Strategy Board; Gambling Commission; Central and North West London Foundation Trust/NHS England is evidence to this. Bizarrely, when just Gummer, he made his fortune through running lobbying companies, many of whom worked directly for the gambling industry.
In the same year, the then big 5 operators; bet365, GVC, Flutter Entertainment, Sky Bet and William Hill decided, possibly to fend off the idea of a mandatory levy being imposed on research, education and treatment (RET), possibly as a tool with which to launch the new gambling trade association, the Betting and Gaming Council of which they were the founding funders, that they would increase their contributions to RET to a cumulative total of £100 million over the next five years. Inexplicably, they approached (reportedly) Lord Chadlington to chair a Committee to look at how best to spend the funds. The Chadlington Consultancy would have four meetings with gambling Minister Mims Davies MP or with the Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright MP with these operators, about this. Of issue was the fact that traditionally such expenditure on RET would usually be channelled through GambleAware for distribution. It is at the same time that GambleAware had fully signed up to PHAG and had agreed to fund the Gambling Health Alliance, effectively funding anti-gambling groups. Conversely, the Chadlington Committee included Liz Richie, founder of Gambling With Lives of which more later and the most anti-gambling DCMS Minister this decade, Tracy Crouch MP. They decided to establish a charity, which would be called Action Against Gambling Harm (AAGH!) which would not allow any industry influence on how the money was spent to the extent that even recommending an organisation being a possible beneficiary of funds would see them struck off in perpetuity. In June 2020, the Betting and Gaming Council announced that the money would instead be given to GambleAware. This was seen by the usual suspects (Guardian 24/06/20) and even Heather Wardle in an open letter in the British Medical Journal as evidence of the influence that the gambling companies have over gambling research. The fact that a) the industry was channelling funds via GambleAware as has always been the case since the Gambling Act 2005, and b) probably more pertinently, the fact that the Gambling Commission’s own rules are that RET payments could be made to authorised organisations only and Action Against Gambling Harm wasn’t authorised, appears to have not been considered by the PHAG acolytes. Questions still need to be answered about who advised the big 5 that dealing with Chadlington was in anyway beneficial to the gambling industry. Please do contact me if you have an answer?
The final anti-gambling group are the most overtly anti-gambling as they are the anti-gambling pressure groups. They fall basically into the following groups; the God Squad, these are arguably the most laudable of the anti-gambling groups as unlike the PHAG cult, they don’t pretend to depend on science, and unlike the PHAG cult, they are aware that they base their views on religion/ideology. They have been prevalent during the Gambling Act 2005 debate and took part in the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee inquiry on the Gambling Act in 2012/13 but their last meetings with DCMS were in 2014, although they remain part of the Gambling Health Alliance. These are: Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, Salvation Army, Evangelical Alliance, Christian Action, Research, and Education (CARE), Church of England and Methodist Church.
The next group we shall call Derek Webb funded, as that it what they were: the Campaign For Fair Gambling and Stop the FOBTs, which gave Zorba-Cousins employment and saw the first example of splinter groups, learnt form the Peoples Front of Judea. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling and Stop the FOBTs are effectively the same people but by having two pressure groups it makes it look like there is more support for the cause. The Parliamentary All Party Group on Gambling Harms, is technically an All Party Group (APG) and not a pressure group, but has acted as such and as they are linked closely to many others in the anti-gambling group, its fair to treat them as such. We also add the Social Market Foundation (SMF) which is a well respected thinktank, apart from when it comes to gambling. Its two reports on significant restrictions on gambling, were paid for by Derek Webb and got to be discussed by Secretary of State Nicky Morgan MP and gambling Minister, Helen Whatley MP, both meetings were just the SMF and the Minister. 
Then we have the Playtech funded groups: Gambling with Lives and the Big Step, which again are effectively the same people just targeting different elements of the anti-gambling manifesto. In 2020, 25 year old, Chris Bruney, committed suicide after allegedly falling into debt due to his gambling addiction. The company held responsible by the Gambling Commission was a subsidiary of Playtech's, PT Entertainment Services (PTES). As part of the regulatory settlement, Playtech donated £2.88million to Gambling with Lives, while the remaining £620,000 went to other charities in addiction research and treatment. The Gambling Commission stated ‘Playtech, its parent company, has also pledged to donate a total of £5 million to mental health and gambling-related harm charities over the next five years as part of its strategy to promote better online health.’ What hasn’t been stated is that as well as offering support to families suffering a bereavement supposedly due to gambling related suicide the majority of the work of Gambling With Lives is focused on campaigning against gambling, with their subsidiary the Big Step campaigning against gambling advertising and sponsorship in football. To my mind, Gambling With Lives have many unanswered questions about the factual accuracy of the statements they make/have made in their campaigning and how they blatantly ignore the Samaritan’s advice that you should never attribute suicide to just one cause as it is a complex syndrome often involving adverse childhood experiences. Considering that Liz Ritchie, the co-founder, was a psychotherapist you would think they would know this. It may seem objectionable to get personal about a suicide, but as the Ritchies have made their son Jack’s death a cause celebre, it is fair to question them and why for example they let their obviously mentally ill son go to Vietnam, where he supposedly gambled himself to death? They are however, very effective campaigners, meeting with the Ministers 11 times, more than any other organisation in the anti-gambling category. They also are the only organisation apart from the Gambling Commission to get to meet with a Secretary of State (Nadine Dorries MP) by themselves and the gambling Ministers Chris Philp MP, Tracy Crouch MP, Mims Davies MP, Nigel Huddlestone MP (3 times!), John Whittingdale MP and Chris Philp MP by themselves, again something only the Gambling Commission has managed to achieve. They also have been part of gambling harms roundtables where everyone else present has been arguably experts in their field and part of the gambling infrastructure. Even their subsidiary, The big Step got its one solitary meeting with Chris Philp MP alone. No wonder they got their MBEs! It has to be said that it’s a tough gig for a Minister to reject with potential press fall out.
Last but not least are the odds and sods, quite literally. Goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out about his lifetime gambling addiction in 2020, with a book about it coming out the following year. This was enough for the Minister, Helen Whatley MP to see them unaccompanied. Ex Paddy Power founder and CEO, Stewart Kenny has set up his own pressure group, Stop Gambling Harm. Presumably spending the millions he has personally profited from the gambling industry he is supposedly lobbying to get tougher restrictions on under 25s gambling, mandatory deposit limits, separation of betting and gaming accounts and severe restrictions on advertising. His often repeated act as a repentant bookie for any anti-gambling journalist, was enough to get him a meeting alone with Chris Philp MP. The last in our group is Gambling Watch, as mentioned above, the anti-gambling group run by Prof. Jim Orford, who in his book An Unsafe Bet?: The Dangerous Rise of Gambling and the Debate We Should Be Having, argues that the gambling industry should be nationalised with all advertising banned.
The number of times overtly anti-gambling groups met with DCMS Ministers was:
Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs 4 times
Salvation Army 4 times
Evangelical Alliance 4 times
Christian Action, Research, and Education 4 times
Church of England 3 times
Methodist Church 2 times
Campaign For Fair Gambling/Stop the FOBTs 5 times
All Party Group on Gambling Harms 2 times
Gambling With Lives 11 times
The Big Step 1 time
Peter Shilton 1 time
Stop Gambling Harm 1 time
Gambling Watch 1 time
Out of the 157 gambling related meetings DCMS minister had, I categorised 60 as anti-gambling or 38%. If we remove the Covid-19 meetings, this becomes 40% (60÷149). If we take it that the Gambling Commission has been actively anti-gambling since Sarah Harrison was CEO, this becomes 53% (60 + 20 ÷149). But taking it on the bare numbers, its pro-gambling 80 meetings (50%), 60 anti-gambling (38%) and 17 neutral (the Gambling Commission) (10%) making 98% with the rest due to rounding.
I would argue that 40% of Ministerial meetings with anti-gambling groups shows a significant bias towards anti-gambling groups either due to Minister’s personal preferences (e.g. Tracy Crouch MP and Chris Philp MP) or anti-gambling bias within the private office or both. I would suggest that for a Department that’s main responsibility is to its industry, the number of anti-gambling meetings, which are to the denigration of that industry, should be below 10%.
My case is further evidenced when we look at the division between meetings categorised by the civil service as about gambling policy, 81 (51%) and those on problem gambling, 76 (49%). Never has our second best gambling Minister’s words been so pertinent. John Penrose MP said that in the future gambling will only ever be looked at through the prism of problem gambling.
The real evidence of where the anti-gambling bias in DCMS lies in who the boss sees. Of the 19 meetings that Secretary of States held on gambling related matters over the decade, 8 were with anti-gambling groups, 7 with pro-gambling and 4 neutral (Gambling Commission). These meetings were categorised as 10 on problem gambling and 9 on gambling policy. Add to this the all-powerful influence of Gambling With Lives and it is safe to say, that all DCMS is interested in is problem gambling and maybe this should bring back the calls to move gambling to the Department for Business & Trade where it may get a fairer hearing and not be so subject to the anti-gambling whims of its Ministers and Civil Servants.
 May C I van Schalkwyk, Mark Petticrew, Rebecca Cassidy, Peter Adams, Martin McKee, Jennifer Reynolds, Jim Orford, A public health approach to gambling regulation: countering powerful influences, The Lancet Public Health, Volume 6, Issue 8, 2021, Pages e614-e619,
 R Cassidy, Vicious games: capitalism and gambling, Pluto Press, London (2020), J Orford, The gambling establishment: challenging the power of the modern gambling industry and its allies, Routledge, London (2019)..
 Bowden-Jones, H., Dickson, C., Dunand, C., & Simon, O. (Eds.). (2019). Harm Reduction for Gambling: A Public Health Approach. Routledge. Reith, G. (Ed.) (2003). Gambling: Who wins? Who loses? New York: Prometheus Books. It should be stated that these books are collections of essays, some by sane academics who do not consider the influence of the gambling industry to be akin to a global conspiracy. I would argue that Gerda Reith and Bowden-Jones are not among them.
 Wardle, H. (2021) Games Without Frontiers? Socio-historical Perspectives on the Gaming/Gambling Intersection. Palgrave Macmillan: Cham.
 We cant be certain if Gerda Reith or Heather Wardle or both met with DCMS as its recorded as University of Glasgow, where they both work. The Social Market Foundation met with Ministers twice to discuss their reports which were funded by Derek Webb.
 https://www.gov.uk/search/transparency-and-freedom-of-information-releases?organisations%5B%5D=department-for-digital-culture-media-sport&parent=department-for-digital-culture-media-sport accessed February 2023
 Wardle H, Banks J, Bebbington P, Blank L, Bowden Jones OBE H, Bramley S et al. Open letter from UK based academic scientists to the secretaries of state for digital, culture, media and sport and for health and social care regarding the need for independent funding for the prevention and treatment of gambling harms BMJ 2020; 370
 Scott Corfe, Aveek Bhattacharya, Jake Shepherd, Double or nothing? Assessing the economic impact of gambling, Social Market Foundation for Derek Webb, 2021. James Noyes, Jake Shepherd, Gambling review and reform: towards a new regulatory framework, 05 August 2020
 Orford J. An unsafe bet? The dangerous rise of gambling and the debate we should be having. John Wiley & Sons; 2010.