Entain Criticised over Lobbying Methods

6th July 2023

With the UK Government White Paper on gambling reform finally published, it’s interesting to see how online casinos operators react to the proposed measures. Entain have expressed their views but they have been criticised for lobbying methods they have recently been utilising. .

Entain owns several leading UK gambling companies, including Ladrbokes, Coral and PartyCasino.  Last year saw the company fined £17 million for regulatory failures.

Since the White Paper was published, they have been busy urging their customers to contact their local MP regarding the proposed measures.

However, not every person contacted has known just who is contacting them calling for such actions to be taken.  This has been slammed by the chair of the parliamentary group on gambling, Carolyn Harris, MP.

The White Paper was finally published in late April and includes several measures aimed at producing tighter regulation of the UK gambling industry. This is particularly the case for online casinos who had not previously been covered under the 2005 Gambling Act.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen is the chief executive of Entain. He has said that Entain welcomes the White Paper and sees it as an “important step” towards there being a “robust regulatory framework” for the new digital age. Their hope is it will create a “level playing field for all operators”. Is that what they really feel about measures that are likely to hit their profits?

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper seems to show those aren’t really the views of Entain. Emails that they have seen show that Entain were busy encouraging their customers to make contact with their MP.

The aim was to show opposition to regulation that was going to be too tough. They were advised to ask their MP to support a not so strict set of regulations and vote against legislation that would seriously affect  UK online casinos and other gambling sites.

Soon after the White Paper was published, an organisation called the Players’ Panel were actively sending out emails. The group claims that it is representing the interests of everyday gamblers. It just happens to be owned  and funded by Entain who are obviously very interested in what the UK Government has in mind.

Those who had already signed up to receive emails from them received emails criticising the planned measures outlined by the UK Government.

The correspondence stated: “The government has decided to limit when and how much you can bet, This is going to significantly impact your ability to bet responsibly.” They then advised those receiving the email to get in touch with their MP stating their objections to the planned reforms for online casinos.

The emails sent out by the group did not mention the fact they are funded and managed by Entain.That’s despite the fact that Entain’s name is on the group’s website.

The correspondence included ten letter templates that could be used. Some of them specifically looked at certain measures that are included in the White Paper.

For example, one particular template addressed the proposals to limit the stakes for online slot machines. This would of course affect the profits made by online casinos. Another addressed the call for stricter affordability checks. These have the aim to ensure that players at online casinos can afford to gamble and lose the amounts they are staking.

The White Paper is also looking at taking action against some of the offers that are available at online casinos. These are believed to encourage players to keep gambling with a site. This is also the subject of one of the templates.

One of these templates mentioned that the planned measures would be a “massive infringement on my personal freedom.” It then saw them asking their MP to contact gambling minister Lucy Frazer. Another template included the message: “It isn’t fair. It isn’t right. It isn’t British.”

The overall view of the templates is that the White Paper is a “negative step.” They believe the proposed measures would in fact do “more harm than good.”  That’s not quite what Entain has been saying publicly about the White Paper.

The chair of the cross-parliamentary group has described their lobbying as “dishonest” and “shameful.” Speaking about the emails that have been sent out, the MP said that they “reveal their true colours as they  immediately try to undermine the proposals using covert and dishonest tactics.”

The former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Lady Davidson, accepted that it is “legitimate” for the public to contact their MP about certain legislation. However, she was critical of the way in which Entain has behaved over online casino reform.

Not revealing which “well-funded gambling firm” is behind the lobbying and using templates “is pretty underhand.” The peer added: “In fact it stinks.”