The CEOs of three of the United Kingdom’s most prominent gambling firms — Flutter Entertainment (previously Paddy Power Betfair), GVC Holdings (Ladbrokes owner) and William Hill — have pulled out of a scheduled meeting with Members of Parliament (MP) in Westminster, thus earning themselves the wrath of the latter.
The meeting’s objective was the talk about the risks that are often associated with online gambling.
The CEOs initially accepted the invitations to this meeting but later on offered one excuse after another to escape attending the gathering. The chair for the all-party parliamentary group for gambling harm, Carolyn Harris MP, called these withdrawals as being “outrageous.”
“These are men who run companies that feed addiction, amass vast profits from the vulnerable and take home huge pay packets, yet they are too afraid to appear before MPs.”
Harris did not hide her disdain and said that the men are running scared and that their decision to pull out from the meeting is extremely cowardly.
The first CEO to withdraw from the meeting was GVC Holdings head, Kenneth Alexander. This was two days after Harris copied Alexander in an email from a problem gambler.
This gambler wanted the MPs to ask the GVC boss on his claims that Ladbrokes Coral let him lose tens of thousands of pounds even though he was showing obvious signs of gambling addiction.
However, there is no suggestion that this email was the real reason for Alexander’s withdrawal. According to a GVC spokesperson, the withdrawal was because of “business commitments.” The spokesperson explained that Alexander would go to a different hearing that would take place in the House of Lords.
Less than 24 hours after Alexander’s withdrawal, William Hill CEO Philip Bowcock, also relayed his reason for not attending, claiming “commitments around licensing in the UK and some shareholder meetings.”
William Hill intended to send Phil Walker to the meeting instead, who functions as the managing director for online betting in Ireland and the UK.
A week after the withdrawal of Bowcock and Alexander, Peter Jackson, who is the CEO of Flutter Entertainment, said he would have to cancel as a result of “unforeseen travel.” The company will instead be sending the chief executive for the Betfair and Paddy Power European operations, Dan Taylor.
The non-attendance of these prominent CEOs would see further scrutiny reign down upon them and the companies they embody.
Former Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, stated how the non-attendance of the CEOs “speaks volumes about their complicity” after reports that their firms were hounding those with gambling problems to continue gambling.