iGB Diary: Correspondence, TV ads and another bumper pay day for bet365

23 November 2018

Happy Friday igamers! This week’s meddlesome missive considers the reignited debate around the Wire Act, tries to understand ITV’s stance on gambling ads and looks at whether Denise Coates should doing more to cure the country’s societal ills!

Begging letters
Congressional Republicans’ on-going campaign to bury deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with correspondence regarding the Wire Act and igaming is the political equivalent of two kids chorusing “are we there yet” at their increasingly beleaguered parents on a five-hour car journey. Wisconsin congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s the latest to pick up a pen. It’s quite hard to see what the ultimate goal is here. In 2011, the New York Lottery and Illinois Governor’s Office asked the Department of Justice’s lawyers for clarification on the Wire Act, in relation to online lottery sales. It got one. This, however, seems not to have been the clarification many politicos wanted. Have our intrepid Mr Smiths gone to Washington to reassert a ban on igaming by carefully drafting legislation, garnering cross-party support and triumphantly having it enshrined in federal law? Of course not. Despite these lawmakers’ concerns - whisper it - Washington doesn’t want to stop states from regulating gambling. The public want it. State coffers definitely want it. Even the professional sports leagues want (a piece of) it. There’s also a fairly pungent whiff of skewed priorities. Lest we forget, the DOJ is busy contending with the small matter of lacking a chief, after Jeff Sessions was unceremoniously tipped out of the Attorney General’s chair earlier this month. Sensenbrenner’s letter also called on Congress to ensure “the public is protected” from the dangers of gambling. He has voted in favour of reducing the waiting period to buy a gun to one day, and to prohibit product misuse lawsuits being brought against gun manufacturers. Excuse us if we find sudden concern for protecting the public a tad insincere.

ITV cleaning up?
We all know that this year gambling advertising has been a hot topic in the UK, and particularly during the World Cup. The ITV games broadcast during the tournament attracted widespread criticism for an excess of gambling ads – in total gambling ads took up almost  90 minutes throughout the ITV matches, accounting for 17% of all ad time. It was therefore rather ironic to read about the channel’s soon-to-launch gritty new drama about a woman with online gambling debts, particularly as the actress playing the leading role, Sheridan Smith, told i News: “A lot of gambling adverts are aimed at females in the daytime; they are pink, glossy things. Gambling on the phone doesn’t seem real but pretty soon people get in debt.” Not to worry though, as apparently ITV told i News it would try to make sure no gambling adverts were run during Cleaning Up. Presumably it’s business as usually the rest of the time. 

Misdirected anger
It was perhaps to be expected that Denise Coates’ bumper pay packet would attract some debate, as it has in previous years, but The Guardian’s coverage seems to have descended from biased to plain bizarre. As well as an article entitled, “Bet365 founder paid herself an 'obscene' £265m in 2017”, which rather predictably trots out the usual quotes about how people working in gambling should not be making so much money and throws in problem gambling and child gambling for good measure, she also features in an opinion piece on inequality. Polly Toynbee’s column yesterday came with the strapline, “Bet365’s Denise Coates pays herself £265m while one in 200 people are homeless: no wonder the country is so unhappy”. It’s not really clear how Coates is responsible for the homelessness and wider inequality Toynbee writes about, although she takes a swipe at her having been awarded a CBE. Whether you like the gambling industry or not — and clearly The Guardian does not — it’s a bit much to associate Coates with homelessness and poverty when bet365 is one of the few British igaming companies to remain onshore, keeping thousands of jobs in Stoke that otherwise wouldn’t exist. And as even The Guardian points out in its main article, salaries across the board are high at bet365 — so yes, she’s paying herself a lot, but also everyone else, unlike many other companies with highly paid CEOs. If England is “angry” as Toynbee claims, directing that anger towards Coates is misguided.

That's all for this week - have a fabulous weekend!