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p14 nick hawkins:p12 nick hawkins 26/10/2009 08:37 Page 34
UK GAMING
“We mustn’t let the
‘extremists’ queer the pitch”
Former UK Shadow Gambling Minister Nick Hawkins sorts the wheat
from the chaff in his bi-monthly column…
T
his month I’m going to be perhaps a This is a big enough market with great growth
touch more serious than usual in this potential for all to do well – but don’t provide gilt-
column. Over the last few years in my edged ammunition for our enemies, please! I write
return to industry and commerce as a this on the UK’s “Responsible Gambling Day”…
senior corporate lawyer, from the world For the sake of the rest of us, even if you aren’t
of politics and Government, I haven’t come across regulated by the UK’s regulators, recognise that
many occasions when I’ve seen people in industry you have a responsibility to the whole industry,
do something completely counter-productive which please…!
risks totally spoiling the market for the rest of us.
Sure, there will always be some people pushing at On a lighter note, with my racing fan hat on – “Sea
the boundaries, even in top companies – but now, the Stars” after the Arc win, truly a “Triomphe” – that
twice in a matter of weeks, I’m come across real horse has truly joined the all-time greats pantheon.
danger for those of us who want to see this I’m really too young, though I grew up with racing, to
industry thrive. In the machines sector, some have fully appreciated (though I’m old enough to
people having been going so far over the line of have seen) Arkle or Mill Reef or Nijinsky. I think this
what is acceptable as to provoke real wrath from horse’s record shows he’s the greatest in my adult life
HM Revenue and Customs; but even more – nearly 35 years – certainly the greatest yet in this
concerning to me was the story on sports betting millennium. Will I live to see a better horse? I hope
reported in the “Telegraph” in the last few days. If so, but I frankly doubt it.
readers follow up the story, you’ll see which
companies – but apparently some have started Finally, and rather linking the earlier two
running books on youth, under-18, UK football paragraphs, the prize for irresponsible
Nick Hawkins is a Barrister games, which is not ‘policed’ and the bets are taken misjudgment goes to… the UK Government on the
specialising in Gambling and on the basis of phone reports by mobile phone Tote. The Government is keen to hit people for
Leisure law. In his 13 years from someone at pitchside! So, these games are no “mis-selling” in other contexts. This was a missed
in Parliament previously, he longer played in front of the proverbial “2 men and sale! Tote CEO Trevor Beaumont had a brilliant and
held roles in Government and a dog” but now 2 men, a dog, and an internet workable plan which would have enabled HMG to
Opposition, including bookie’s rep with a mobile! This is crazy, and so sell the Tote, keep its promise to racing, and get a
Shadow Solicitor-General obviously bound to incur the wrath (and punitive good price, before the economic sky fell in. It
and Shadow Sports Minister. action) of Regulators it is difficult to stress how ducked the chance, mistakenly thinking it could
He is now Legal Director for much damage this will cause to those of us who get more. Now, in the last few days, the
a gaming company. need to keep winning arguments that this is a Government says the Tote is in its “fire sale” of
reputable, legitimate, UK leisure industry. We are assets – and as Peter Jones has said, it will probably
talking here about young people as the players – now get only one third of what it should have got if
what is one of the main Licensing Objectives in the it had sold at the right time, for the poor
2005 UK Gambling Act? “protecting young people benighted taxpayer. Bad judgment by HMG – the
and the vulnerable” – so there are bound to be real taxpayer stands the loss – due to misjudgment due
concerns about pressure on young people if lots of to greed. Where is a political great to stop this kind
money is being wagered on a result. Organise bets of thing repeating itself in Government, first as
on Premiership, Championship and League and tragedy, then as farce…?
non-league adult football, or any other sports, and
grow that market by bets in play, new styles of bets, Finally, we must stop the Government (in this case
bets via mobiles etc etc, fine – but guys, have some HMRC/Treasury) trying to crucify another part of the
sense! By doing this in youth football you really are industry with a Gross Profits Tax. It’s yet another
inviting a draconian crackdown on the whole example of people in tax ivory towers not realising
industry by regulators and a huge backlash from their plans means killing the goose which could lay
the anti-gambling brigade! golden eggs!
14 NOVEMBER 2009
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