Did a resigning government minister just admit Tory policy is controlled by special interests?

Conservative MP Tracey Crouch pictured next to a fruit machine
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Sports minister Tracey Crouch has resigned over delays to the regulation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT’s), described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

And her resignation letter has got people talking.

A stinging resignation letter

Although civil in tone, in political speak her resignation letter is scathing of the government’s failure to implement FOBT reform quicker.

Read on...

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Lives at risk

Crouch referenced Theresa May’s historic commitment to “support vulnerable people against the power of big business”.

Damningly, Crouch added:

two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling related problems and, for that reason as much as any other, I believe this delay is unjustifiable.

Special “interests”

So, why delay implementation? Crouch asserts it was:

due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests.

The question arises: “commitments” to whom, and to which “interests” is she referring?

Labour attack

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson thought the answer was obvious. In the commons, he claimed culture secretary Jeremy Wright ‘capitulated to the gambling industry’, putting:

corporate interests over victims, profits over public health and greed over good.

He added this later on BBC Radio 4:

Philip Davies

Watson raised the question about Philip Davies’ possible involvement in pressuring culture secretary Jeremy Wright to extend the FOBT regulation implementation period until October 2019.

Davies is a former bookmaker and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Betting and Gaming. And his partner, work and pensions minister, Esther McVey, was also reported by the Times to have protested the FOBT reforms.

Watson referred to Davies as in this video as “the member for Shipley”:

Although Davies denies influencing the decision:

You know you’ve screwed up when these people criticise you

Even former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith criticised the decision:

There are plenty of people whose lives have been damaged by this addiction… We need to do this very quickly…and in the meantime, the gambling industry will make about £1bn as a result of this delay. That’s not right.

Incredibly, one of the best takes came from a UKIP MEP:

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman called out the flimsy excuse given for the delay:

And the Sun’s political editor said it was all about the money:

Dan Bloom from the Mirror pointed out the absurdity of May’s denial:

Gamblers lobbying Westminster

The power of the gambling lobby in Westminster is openly admitted. Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said:

And as reported, betting companies give more in hospitality and gifts to MPs than any other industry.

As spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling Matt Zarb-Cousin warned in 2017, such hospitality was motivated by “desperate” attempts to keep FOBTs stakes at £100 per ‘spin’.

The lobby famously paid to dine with former PM, David Cameron, assured by a former Tory co-treasurer that donors could influence policy.

Gambling away our democracy

Once again democracy seems to have been hijacked by lobbyists. Greed, and the subtle blackmail of suggested job losses if regulation is quickly implemented, has driven the government to put betting companies’ interests over lives.

It’s not often we say it, but well done that Tory MP.

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