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A new chapter begins

Following the British release of a gambling review White Paper, Derek Webb writes an open letter on the next chapter of his gambling reform campaign.

May 2023

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling begins a new chapter

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling was established in response to the most addictive product in British gambling premises, “fixed odds betting terminals” (FOBTs), electronic gaming machines illegally introduced by bookmakers, an unregulated sector prior to the 2005 Gambling Act. Poorly designed policy allowed FOBTs to be legalized with a maximum stake of £100 per spin.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling successfully asked for a maximum stake reduction to £2 per spin. This not just saved consumers money — but it significantly improved the quality of players life. Upon prevailing, the annual revenue on FOBTs decreased by £750 million, a decline of 40%. More importantly, within 3 years, the National Gambling Treatment Service's clients reporting FOBTs as a main gambling activity had declined by 65%, a very significant reduction in harm.

These are the kinds of results we want to see from reform. With the right protections in place, gambling can be both enjoyable for the consumers and viable for the businesses. My personal history includes success in a broad range of gambling related activities as a poker player, a casino table game creator, an intellectual property holder, and a litigation funder in supplier disputes. I have repurposed my successes in the sector dedicating funds, time and experience to expose the flaws of the 2005 Gambling Act, ultimately becoming a successful gambling reform advocate and philanthropist.

In my efforts, I have had tremendous partners. Matt Zarb-Cousin, a political activist who was addicted to FOBTs at age 16, played a dynamic role in ensuring that we prevailed. Following our success, Matt founded “Clean Up Gambling,” focused on online and mobile gambling (known as remote gambling) to encourage the British government to review the Act and make it fit for the digital age, which I support wholeheartedly.

Meanwhile, I also supported Dr. James Noyes, a former academic and think-tank research director, to advise the Labour Party Deputy Leader on gambling policy. As a result, the 2019 general election manifestos of both major parties included a commitment to a gambling review based on those suggested policies.

The subsequent review resulted in a White Paper published in April 2023. While certainly imperfect, there are positive proposed reforms and multiple pending consultations, which are all good steps in the right direction to address the remote gambling legacy failures.

However, throughout this process, the trade lobbyists of the gambling sector have often falsely described reformers as “anti-gambling prohibitionists.” Our intent is to preserve access to lawful but safer gambling for consumers. Meanwhile, some operators repeatedly breach regulations, some profit from black markets, and some are now major players in the newly liberalized US remote gambling market. But in the start-up greed-rush, some US states have overlooked these bad practices, ignored the lessons from outside the US, and have not adequately prepared to mitigate the negatives of remote gambling expansion.

Taking advice from Matt and James, I have decided to relaunch the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, to provide the evidence-based approach to improve US remote gambling policy, legislation, regulation, and enforcement standards and reduce the associated harms.

For federal advice I have retained Imperium Global Advisors, a boutique bi-partisan DC firm. For states advice I have retained the expertise of Doura-Schawohl Consultancy. Please see the Role page for more insight.

Derek Webb