Ladbrokes refutes FOBTs and unethical business claims

12 November 2013

Ladbrokes has refuted claims made in a series of articles published by the Guardian newspaper that business practices on its betting premises were unethical and that it turned a blind eye to illegal activity.

The UK bookmaker told iGaming Business that it makes “over 100 police calls a month” to flag up suspicious activity and that “there is no commercial conflict as our regulatory responsibilities always take precedent” over generating profits, most notably through fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), in its betting outlets.

"All staff are fully trained in prevention of money laundering and under age prevention," Ladbrokes added. "The industry supplies figures to the Gambling Commission on both under-age challenges and police incidents but appear to be criticised both for the number being low and high - the reality is we are responsible and have clear policies in place."

Paul Pearce, an ex-employee of Ladbrokes, contacted the Guardian after it published an article claimingFOBTs were widely used across the industry to launder money made from drug dealing

Pearce claimed the UK’s biggest bookmaker told staff “not to mention the words "children", "smashed" and "money laundering" in company documents for fear of exposing the scale of underage gambling and criminality in betting shops” and that the emergence of FOBTs in 2001 has meant the sector is “riddled with commercial conflicts”.

"The industry changed overnight. In my view it became immoral. You had shop managers who got paid a bonus or commission for increasing takings. So tell me, would you stop a punter from putting in thousands of pounds of cash into a machine when your pay depends on it?,” Pearce said.

The bookmaker responded: "Ladbrokes records all incidents and works closely with both the police and regulator on all issues. This employee raised no concerns during his employment and we reject any suggestion that the company does not take under age betting or crime seriously. We continually seek to be at the forefront of tackling crime will continue to develop and improve our approach in conjunction with the regulator and police."

Ciaran O’Brien, head of corporate affairs at Ladbrokes, wrote to the Guardian saying: “Suspicious activity such as that described in the article is investigated and where appropriate will always be reported to police”. He also told iGaming Business that the company had ordered “over 10,000 ejections of under-age people a month” from its betting outlets.