William Hill’s MD Defends Their Record on Responsible Gambling
WH Managing Director States 30% of VIP Accounts Have Been Closed to Parliamentary Committee
William Hill’s managing director Phil Walker has defended his company’s responsible gambling record during a parliamentary committee meeting. Walker said William Hill had closed 30% of its VIP accounts in the last 12 months. The William Hill MD was one of five betting company executives who faced an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting on gambling-related harm. Walker, alongside Sky Betting & Gaming CEO Ian Proctor, bet365 co-CEO John Coates, Flutter Entertainment Europe CEO Dan Taylor and Tombola CEO Phil Cronin answered questions from MP’s as well as former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
Detailing William Hill’s efforts, Williams revealed that his company had closed 30% of VIP accounts due to vagueness or doubts of the source of the funds for these affected accounts. Dan Taylor, the CEO of Flutter Entertainment Europe, said his company had taken similar measures and was actively closing 70,000 accounts per month.
Carolyn Harris, who is the Labour MP for Swansea East was scathing in her remarks, alleging that the account closures weren’t due to any anti-corruption, fraud or social responsibility measures but the termination of these accounts was due to the customers winning. She said;
You do close down a lot of accounts, but that tends to be when people win and not because they are problem gamblers. –Carolyn Harris, Labour MP
Another person to come under fire from the 58-year-old Deputy Leader of the Welsh Labour party was GVC Chief Executive Officer Kenny Alexander who was due to attend the meeting but withdrew due to “business commitments”. Harris described Alexander’s absence as “cowardly” and left his chair empty with his nameplate clearly showing in the middle of the other CEOs who had attended. Items on the agenda in the meeting included stake restrictions, the strategy the betting companies employ when dealing with VIP customers and discussions about UK gambling companies should be forced to keep their physical businesses within the UK if they wished to continue to serve UK customers.
In a range of probing and often personal questions, Harris asked the CEOs to reveal their annual salaries but rather than an exact figure the Welsh MP asked them to state if the number was over or under £50,000 per year. Harris also asked how much they individually staked when placing a bet. Harris could be heard gasping when Paddy Power’s Taylor revealed his average bet was £100, the MP replied, you can “feed a family of five” for the same amount”.
In the same conversation, Sky Betting & Gaming CEO Ian Proctor stated his average bet was no more than £50 and bet365’s co-CEO John Coates said his involvement with Stoke City football club prohibited him from placing bets due to the Football Association’s rules on betting.
All the CEOs present admitted that mistakes had been made in the past with Coates claiming there has been a “sea change” in the industry’s efforts to combat problem gambling. These views were echoed by SBG’s Ian Proctor who stated that there had been a shift in the last couple of years that “makes things better and safer for everybody”.
Whether the CEOs were able to demonstrate to the All-Party Parliamentary Group that their efforts are enough remains to be seen. The APPG was responsible for the reduction in the stakes of fixed-odds betting terminals stakes being reduced from £100 to £2 , and industry insiders fear more restrictions are on the way, such as the banning of credit cards for online gambling with is being investigated currently by the UK Gambling Commission.