There is more to my story – part three – The Dark Side of the Sun

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Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling continues with his personal insights 

A few weeks ago my photo appeared in a national newspaper with the caption below it “Casino interests … Webb” and not even a question mark in sight. Also included was the text “Mr. Webb has insisted his campaign against the bookies was not aimed at protecting his casino interests.” Whilst I have explained my story before on Politics Home Central Lobby, there are still some who prefer to ignore the facts and concoct false and malicious insinuations designed to denigrate me and the Stop the FOBTs campaign.

Just to clarify – I have never owned a casino and do not have any commercial interest in any casino. I do have shares in a US based casino supply company, which also owes me a fixed amount of debt, which is being paid in fixed installments. 

Some have argued that if the Campaign were to be successful in ensuring a socially responsible level of staking on the high street at £2 and under, the stock of the supplier I hold shares in might appreciate. But as I have already spent over £1.5 million on the Campaign, the stock price would have to increase in value several-fold in order for me to even break level and as there is no historical evidence of significant casino to FOBT crossover play, there is no expectation that an FOBT stake reduction would have any significant impact on casino business.

So I don’t have any casino interests to protect and the Campaign could not result in any “protection” of the alleged “interests”. The baseless grounds of attack on me and the Campaign is typical of the pro-FOBT-status-quo advocates ignoring the facts and the evidence.

I have profited substantially from gambling and I am putting something back through my Campaign in an area that I have a world-class understanding of. I oppose corporate wrongdoing, inadequate regulatory enforcement and British establishment acceptance of this across all sectors, but particularly gambling.

The article was also an attempt to discredit Lib Dems and my funding of them by implying that a Lib Dem asking questions in Parliament about FOBTs was influenced by my funding. The real question should be – “Why is any politician still defending the FOBT status quo?”

I provided some individual constituency Lib Dem funding where the main opponent was Labour, which was counterbalanced by some individual constituency Labour funding. The majority of my recent Lib Dem funding was to oppose the Tories.

The journalist, under the pretence of trying to get a balanced view, contacted a Campaign colleague at 9.00pm on Saturday, whilst running his “non-story” story on the Sunday, enabling him to say that I was “not available for comment.”

Which red top was guilty? Step forward the Sun on Sunday! To the best of my knowledge, neither the Sun nor the Sun on Sunday have ever featured text from one of the many Campaign press releases we have issued. A further two solid, evidence-based stories that Sun journalists uncovered regarding bookmakers and FOBTs were denied editorially and not published.

FOBTs are the most addictive form of gambling and cause the greatest amount of socio-economic harm. Vulnerable persons in deprived communities are most at-risk. The Sun and Sun on Sunday readership and their families are probably suffering more consequential FOBT harm than those of any other national newspaper. So does the Sun really care about its readers?

What motivates the Sun stable to be so cold-hearted? Could it be the fact that one of their major sources of revenues is bookmaker advertising? There has already been exposure of the Daily Telegraph, HSBC advertising and weakness in investigative journalism of HSBC by the Telegraph.

How ironic that a false commercial consideration attributed to me by the Sun could have been inspired by a relationship based on a real (but inappropriate) commercial consideration!

Another irony is that the Murdoch owned Fox News (and its promotion of rabid Tea Party Republicans in the US) served to rekindle my young left-of-center philosophy, which then moved me towards political funding in the UK.

The Sun’s anti-SNP position south of the border and pro-SNP position north of the border helped to deliver the UK to the Tories. The pro-FOBT man, John Whittingdale, now in charge at DCMS, is both anti-BBC and pro-Murdoch. The world is a better place with the BBC, but would in my opinion be an even better place without Fox News in the US.

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