Entain, the owner of Ladbrokes, Coral and many other big brands in the gambling industry, has been accused of dishonesty after an organisation they helped set up encouraged members to lobby MPs.
The Player’s Panel – a group which brings together people who actually bet so their voices can be heard in the ongoing debate about gambling legislation – sent out emails in response to the recent government white paper on gambling regulation changes.
A lot of aspects are still out for further consultation, so there is plenty of scope for decisions to be influenced in either direction; anti gambling campaigners are saying it isn’t doing enough, those on the other side are saying it is perhaps taking things too far and restricting personal freedoms.
The article in question was written by a well known anti-gambling campaigner and Guardian columnist, but for balance, The Player’s Panel is made up of very pro gambling folk, so both sides of the debate are what might be described as ‘extremists’.
I’d like to consider myself as somewhere in the middle, and my own personal view of this story is that it isn’t really a story at all, and I will explain why below.
The Player’s Panel Lobbying Against White Paper Changes
The organisation which says it is “the voice of the players”, sent out emails to people who had signed up to their newsletters, encouraging them to write to their local MPs and make their voices heard.
These emails included templates for people to use rather than having to write the emails in their own words – so they could simply sign the letter and send it.
Some have seen this as Entain saying one thing out in the open, but doing another under the surface.
When responding to the accusations of dishonesty, specifically after it was pointed out that they welcomed the government white paper publicly, Entain said:
“We do not see any contradiction between our welcoming of the review and our encouragement of our customers to make their voices heard in what is an important and necessary debate.”
That sounds fair enough to me. Accepting that change is needed but calling for all sides to be heard and any change to be well researched is perfectly reasonable, so why the drama?
Well, the big problem those who have taken issue seem to have, is that there was no explicit mention in the emails that The Player’s Panel had any sort of link to Entain.
Lucy Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives said:
“Of course it’s legitimate for the public to lobby MPs on upcoming legislation.
“But for members of parliament – and members of the public – to be kept in the dark over which well-funded gambling firm is behind lobbying efforts such as template emails is pretty underhand. In fact, it stinks.”
Does it though?
Entain Transparent About Involvement
The Player’s Panel website is totally transparent about being set up by Entain; it’s mentioned in the opening paragraph on the homepage of the website amongst other places, the branding is clearly similar, and it’s even mentioned in their Twitter bio (see above).
With this in mind, since the only people who got the emails are those who had signed up to the mailing list on The Player’s Panel website in the first place, we can presume everyone who got the email should have known about the link to Entain already.
Unless they had suffered some sort of chronic memory loss…
As for MPs being kept in the dark about where the letters had actually come from what with them being templates and all, well this is common practice.
Have you ever signed one of those online petitions? They always ask you to go one step further and write to your local MP, oh and to make it even easier there is a template they have written for you.
The national union I belonged to as part of a previous job did the same thing when they were lobbying for changes. The templates never made any mention of the fact they were templates drawn up by a union.
The Player’s Panel even provided 10 different templates so anyone who wanted to use one could find something that matched their opinion.
So if you ask me, if anything ‘stinks’ it’s this faux outrage and selective reporting of the facts.