The UK’s General Election and the Future of Gambling
By Warwick Bartlett
The General Election on 7 May 2015 could decide the outcome of the UK’s gambling industry for the next five years. It is in my view the most important election for gambling ever. Already the battle signs are developing. Bookmakers William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power have formed Senet Group to promote responsible gambling. Their intention is to monitor and enforce the compliance of best practice. Senet has so far received approval from the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
The media, however, rather than waiting to see if it should prove successful are having none of it.
As you would expect, it was politically quiet over Christmas. There was no reporting about the evils of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT), no stories about parents squandering bonuses on gambling and children not having their Christmas turkey.
Why am I not feeling sorry for Mr Franklin?!
The party political manifestos will hold the key to the course of events in gambling for the next five years.
More telling of the outcome is “no overall majority” at 4/11. So Ladbrokes are expecting a hung parliament and a coalition Government as shown in their post-election betting below:
Conservative/LibDems coalition 4/1
Labour Majority 9/2
Labour Minority Government 9/2
Conservative Majority 5/1
Conservative Minority Government 11/2.
I expect the Liberals will come up with some quite novel ideas to curtail gambling and to increase taxation on an already over-taxed industry. Herein lies the danger. The Conservatives may not agree with Liberal Democrat proposals but in the grand scheme of arguments over budget cuts, the NHS and education, gambling could become the “give away” in a negotiation to achieve results elsewhere that would have a greater impact on the economy.
A Labour Government would be the worst result. Labour has been blamed for the 2005 Gambling Act being too liberal; it has allowed TV advertising and clustering of betting shops on the High Street but has at the same time stopped super casinos, although it was its early intention to create them.
Just like the Terminator, Labour will now wish to go back in time and right the wrong it thinks it committed from 2000 to 2007. I would expect Labour to be draconian in outlook, starting first with the bookmakers and then spreading the misery to achieve ‘parity’ with the rest of the industry.
Whatever the result and the rights and wrongs of the arguments, gambling has become more political than it ever has been. And whenever an industry becomes political it is rarely good news for those involved in the sector.
The electorate, however, is just not interested.
The key for the industry is to convince Government that its responsible gambling efforts are working and that addiction is under control. But facts, data and surveys seem less relevant when you have a hung parliament and the might of the Daily Mail with its three million readers against you.
If you are a Minister in a marginal seat you are more likely to be swayed by the Daily Mail than a survey that tells you addictive gambling is on the decline. In today’s world perception speaks louder than fact.