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Entain accused of ‘shameful’ lobbying against UK gambling reforms

Entain fined by UK gambling authorities

Ladbrokes’ parent company, Entain, allegedly paid people to complain to their MPs about the UK government’s recent gambling reforms.

The long-awaited white paper on gambling was released last month and listed several stricter regulations for operators. A number of new measures were introduced to protect gamblers and reduce the risk of problem gambling; however, they would also cause a drop in the revenue of gaming brands.

As the owner of several brands like PartyCasino and Coral, Entain would be significantly affected by these reforms. After the white paper was released, the company released a statement referring to the reforms as “an important step towards having a robust regulatory framework that is fit for the digital age and creates a level playing field for all operators”.

READ: Entain chairman calls for ‘firm but fair’ UK gambling regulation

However, according to recent information, Entain funded a “dishonest” lobbying operation through an organization named Players’ Panel. The move was reportedly made with the aim of overturning or weakening the reforms.

After the white paper was published, Players’ Panel sent out messages to people who had registered with the organization. It urged them to contact their MPs to complain about the reforms, but left out any mention of Entain in their directives.

According to an email, the organization said, “The government has decided to limit when and how much you can bet. This is going to significantly impact your ability to bet responsibly.”

The Players’ Panel members that agreed to write to their MPs were given 10 letter templates, a number of which called out some aspects of the measures included in the white paper.

The reforms are described as a “negative step” in the templates, which would be more harmful to residents in the long run. Another claimed it was a “massive infringement” on citizens’ personal freedom.

Several templates asked MPs to stop measures that proposed stricter affordability checks, limits on online slot stakes, and limits on free spins.

Former Scottish Conservatives leader Lady Davidson acknowledged the legitimacy of individuals lobbying for the upcoming legislation but faulted Entain for secretly funding the efforts.

“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,” she said.

Carolyn Harris, the head of a cross-party parliamentary group focused on gambling harm, also criticized Entain’s actions. She described the lobbying effort as “shameful” and evidence of the company’s “covert and dishonest tactics”.

Iain Duncan Smith, the previous leader of the Conservative party, stated that the Players’ Panel exhibited dishonesty when it distributed the email templates to members. Smith added that the organization neglected to inform its members that they were participating in a lobbying exercise through the letters.

In response to the criticism, Entain claimed that despite its earlier stance on the reforms, the firm saw no reason not to support customers who wanted their opinions heard. The company also claimed that several Players’ Panel members who previously wrote articles about the gambling reforms were volunteers and not given monetary compensation.

Entain declined to go into details concerning if its staff contributed to writing the templates and how much it contributed to Players’ Panel funding.

“It is hugely important that everyday punters have an active say in the consultation process that has been launched as part of the Gambling Act review, and especially those elements of the review that could impact a recreational past-time [sic] that is enjoyed by millions of people across the country,” the statement read.

“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.”

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