Labour’s Tom Watson Accused of Hypocrisy for FOBTs Stance
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, has been campaigning to downsize the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. A scandal involving the Labour leader has led critics among the Tories to accuse Watson of “staggering hypocrisy”. Watson’s supporters on the left have defended their leader, citing false equivalency.
In comments during last year’s snap election, Tom Watson mentioned that only a Labour government can “confront problem gambling”, but his opponents have pointed out that he has been receiving campaign contributions from gaming interests for the past 6 years.
Since 2011, Watson has received a total of £30,000 in donations from former casino businessman, Derek Webb. This follows after the Labour’s deputy leader has repeatedly called out the Conservative Government for not attempt to change gambling laws in Britain, especially FOBT laws.
According to the UK newspapers, Watson received the funds in three donations. The largest sum (£25,000) bankrolled the MP’s campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader in May of 2015. The remainder of the contributions apparently paid for Watson and supporters in his constituency of West Bromwich East to enjoy two big dinners.
Derek Webb: The Derby Man
Derek Webb, a Derby-born businessman, became a multimillionaire by running casinos and online poker sites for 25 years. Contributing to his fortune, Webb also designed gaming machines for casinos.
Derek Webb invented 3-Card Poker, which is played in many brick-and-mortar casinos worldwide and almost all online casinos. Webb sold the rights to 3-Card Poker, which added to his bankroll. Bankroll is right, because Derek Webb is a notable poker player himself.
In 2012, Webb sold his casino gaming empire, Prime Table Games, to Galaxy Gaming for £17million. To this day, he still holds a 5% share in Prime Tables. These days, Webb splits his time between living in London and his luxury apartment in a Las Vegas Hotel.
Campaign for Fairer Gambling
Following his big sale in 2012, he set up the Campaign for Fairer Gambling group, which campaigns against fixed-odds betting terminals. He, along with many others in the Labour camp, believe FOBTs represent a dangerous kind of gambling – one which encourages rapid-fire bets that prey on compulsive bettors.
Despite the FOBT campaign, Derek Webb has not given up his support the gaming industry. He has campaigned for deregulating UK casinos, along with including a tax cut for casino operators.
Derek Webb has been attacked for hypocrisy, because of his 5% stake in a casino company. Opponents have noted that Webb would benefit from curbs to FOBTs, because it would drive more players to Prime Table Games.
Derek Webb Defends Casinos
For his part, Derek Webb denies claims that fixed-odds betting terminals have negative result on casino revenues. He also claims that casinos are a more respectable way to gamble
Webb once said, “Casinos employ more staff and I don’t see fights or violence in casinos. But you do in bookmakers, when people lose on FOBTs. There’s a difference.”
Derek Webb has spent £3million funding Campaign for Fairer Gambling. He has also donated more than half a million pounds to the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.
Tom Watson: Hypocrite?
Tom Watson has turned on bookmakers since last year, when he took over as Shadow Culture Secretary. Over that time, Watson has staked a reputation on his campaign against FOBTs.
While promising a radical reduction in the maximum stake on FOBTs, Watson accused the bookmakers of deliberately targeting “our poorest communities to line shareholders’ pockets”.
Watson called out the industry for contributing only £10million out of the £13billion of last years revenue to treating gambling addicts.
Does £30,000 Undercut Watson’s Agenda?
However, after reports showed that Watson had received £30,000 in several donations from a gambling hotshot, many people started to point fingers and insult his morals.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said, “It is always the hypocrisy of the left that takes your breath away. They can denigrate casinos and gambling, but then take the donations from the same industry. This is staggering hypocrisy, but I wouldn’t bet anything on Jeremy Corbyn or Tom Watson ever getting into power.”
Tom Watson Strikes Back
Watson was quick to defend his honor along with Derek Webb’s. He also said he would continue to accept Webb’s money. Watson said, “I’d never met Derek when I started to highlight the dangers of these highly addictive machines. He is right to take a stand against them, and I will continue to campaign alongside him.”
A Fairer Gambling spokeswoman said, “As well as philanthropically funding the campaign against FOBTs, Derek Webb has supported politicians, political parties and organizations that share his objective to reduce gambling-related harm.”