GVC slammed after Parliamentary inquiry snub

3 September 2019

GVC will not be represented at this week’s Parliamentary hearing into online gambling following the withdrawal of chief executive Kenny Alexander.

Representatives from William Hill, Flutter Entertainment and other major operators will all give evidence to the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) on Wednesday (4 September) as it continues its inquiry designed to identify and remedy the harms caused by online gambling.

A spokesperson for the cross-party group told iGamingBusiness that Alexander had originally agreed to attend, but withdrew last month, with GVC not offering to send a replacement.

William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock and Flutter’s Peter Jackson have also pulled out, but both operators will now be represented by other executives.

Carolyn Harris MP, who chairs the group, said the withdrawals were “outrageous”.

“These are men who run companies that feed addiction, amass vast profits from the vulnerable and take home huge pay packets, yet they are too afraid to appear before MPs,” Harris said in a statement provided by the group. “They seem to think they have better things to do than to explain their actions publicly. They are running scared and their actions are cowardly in the extreme.”

GVC told iGamingBusiness that Alexander was not able to attend the hearing due to other commitments, but reiterated its commitment to safer gambling.

"Mr Alexander had planned to attend the hearing but due to business commitments, is now unfortunately unable to do so. At this stage, we do not have an executive available to stand in," a spokesperson said.

"With its ‘Changing for the Bettor’ strategy, GVC has made huge advances in the area of safer gambling and as a business, we are committed to driving up standards, protecting vulnerable customers and reducing the harm caused by problem gambling behaviours."

GVC was also one of the first operators to declare its support for a so called whistle to whistle advertising ban in the UK, and has gone even further by calling for a total ban on broadcast advertising by operators.

As one of the UK's 'big five' operators, it has also committed to increasing its contribution to problem gambling treatment funding to 1% of gross gambling yield by 2023.

The hearing will be attended by John Coates, the joint chief executive of Bet365, as well as Ian Proctor and Phil Cronin, the CEOs of Sky Betting and Gaming and Tombola respectively.

Fred Done, the chief executive of Betfred, did not accept his invitation due to a prior engagement. Dan Taylor, chief executive of European operations for the Paddy Power and Betfair brands, will represent Flutter, with William Hill sending Phil Walker, the group’s managing director of online betting in the UK and Ireland.

The hearing is the sixth that has taken place since the inquiry began earlier this year. The seventh and final hearing was due to take place next week but has been postponed due to the prorogation of Parliament. Those due to attend the postponed session, which is to focus on the regulatory landscape, included Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, and Shahriar Coupal, director of advertising policy and practice at the Advertising Standards Authority.

iGB understands the final hearing will now take place in October or November, and the group is still hopeful of publishing its report and recommendations before the end of the year.

This inquiry was created to “examine the full impact of online gambling, the addictive and potentially harmful nature of some of the products on offer and their effect on the vulnerable, in particular, children.”