The Times has reported that former Paddy Power co-founder and CEO Stewart Kenny has secretly lobbied against fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), stating that the machines were exploitative of problem gamblers and the vulnerable.
The newspaper has revealed that in a 2009 consultation, Kenny urged the Irish government not to follow the UK’s lead by banning FOBTs from Irish betting shops. Kenny argued that the machines were more addictive than traditional forms of gambling.
“Let us learn from the mistake in the UK of allowing them into betting offices, once they are in it is impossible to get rid of them or even curb their more addictive elements,” Kenny told the Irish government.
To date, Ireland has not legalised FOBTs, despite reports that UK bookmakers have generated £1.75 billion from the machines and provided + £400 million in tax revenues. The Irish betting market has always been anti-machine though. Unlike the UK betting shops, Irish bookmakers are unable to even operate fruit machines and so the introduction of server based gaming with high stakes would be a huge sea change in perspective for the market.
Debate surrounding FOBTs continues in the UK, with the government reviewing its stance on the matter as anti-gambling campaigners urge ministers to cut machine wagering from £100 to £2.
Carolyn Harris, Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs called Kenny’s comments a ‘refreshing admission’, speaking to The Times, she stated : “The gambling industry should not be encouraging people to get involved with something that they know carries a high risk of them losing all their money and in many cases their sanity because the addiction is driving them to desperate levels.”