The Tories fail to crackdown on FOBTs

The government has today announced yet another review into gambling and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. My view is that it would have been better to announce a crackdown on FOBTs today.

FOBTs cause untold misery. They enable people to gamble £100 every 20 seconds. I’ve heard many stories about addicts spending all their cash on these machines and then taking out loans they can’t afford to carry on playing – and losing that money too.

Labour isn’t opposed to gambling. But we do have a duty to call out exploitative practices. That’s why we said we’d impose a £2 maximum stake for FOBTs in our manifesto. The Government could have followed suit. Instead, it is holding a 12 week consultation seeking views on whether the maximum bet should be cut to £2 or £50 or somewhere in between.

You can make you views known by responding to the DCMS consultation HERE.

I encourage you to do so. In addition, if you have any evidence to support your position then send this to

The consultation deadline is 23 January 2018.

There are 34,000 FOBTs in Britain and bookies can have up to 4 machines in each shop. Each machine takes an average of £53,000 a year and the amount British gamblers lose on FOBTs has risen from £1bn in 2009 to £1.8bn in 2016 – an increase of 73%. The Gambling Commission estimates that one in every nine people who use them end up addicted. The gambling industry says that limiting their profitability will lead to job losses. My view is that some of our poorest communities already pay too high a price for their popularity. They cause poverty, debt and misery. Families can be torn apart.

The total cost to the taxpayer of problem gambling, including mental health services, policing and homelessness, could be £1.2bn a year.

FOBTs aren’t the only problem but they are one of the most visible and arguably the most destructive form of gambling. We need new legislation to regulate a gambling industry that has changed beyond all recognition since the last Gambling Act in 2005.

Online gaming has become huge business. Bookies advertise on football shirts. The Gambling Commission has found that 450,000 children are gambling in England and Wales each week.

Most tellingly of all, the total amount gambling companies win from punters in the UK was a record £13.8bn last year, up from £8.36bn in 2008/09.

The Government needs to act to get a grip on Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction. Instead of doing that they have let the industry off the hook. That’s why bookies’ shares rose this morning. Talking is not enough. We need action.

Read more about FOBTs here Bookies Are The Only Winners Of The Government's Gambling Review

Vital That Facebook Comes Clean About Russian Propaganda

The Electoral Commission has today announced it is in talks with Facebook about whether Russian-funded propaganda adverts broke electoral rules during the EU referendum.

In a statement, the Commission said: "Any receipt of impermissible donations by registered campaigners or political parties campaigning at the EU referendum, either from the UK or overseas, would be a serious breach of the law, and anyone who believes they have evidence of this should provide it to the Commission and the police."
Read more

Defending Investigative Journalism in Malta

On 16 October, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb. We don't know who killed her, but we do know that she devoted her life to exposing corruption - including vital work on the Panama Papers scandal.

Her killing is an attack not just on her, but on journalistic freedom, on freedom of speech and on democracy.

I wrote to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last week to express my deep concern and to ask the Government to urge Malta to make sure Ms Caruana Galizia's death is properly investigated. I'm still waiting for a reply.


Read more

Beware of Cheap Knock-offs - Theresa May's conference speech

It can be tempting to copy someone else's ideas and pass them off as your own. Theresa May seems to have done just that for her speech to Conservative Party Conference today, with a line from American TV drama The West Wing. It looks like she, or one of her speechwriters, is an Aaron Sorkin fan. Compare the (fictional) President Jed Bartlet with the (still real, just about) Prime Minister Theresa May. 

Read more

Tom Watson: Speech to Labour Party Annual Conference 2017

My speech to Labour Party Annual Conference, Brighton 2017

Read more

It's about time gambling addiction was taken seriously

Some gambling companies, driven by greed, are deliberately targeting our poorest communities even as hundreds of thousands of lives are ruined by addiction. 

Read more

Tom Watson: Speech to Musician's Union Conference

Hello everyone, good afternoon. It is a genuine pleasure to be with you today. And it’s a particular pleasure because as a kid I wanted to be a professional musician. I played a brief starring role as a member of the third violins in the Sladen Middle school orchestra.

Read more

12 Tory promises from 2015 that Theresa May has dropped in 2017

In 2015, the Tories stood on a manifesto full of promises they couldn't deliver. Now, just two years later, they've called another election and published a new manifesto. And there are a few things missing. 

Read more

The Tories' 28 Billionaire Backers Show Whose Side They Are Really On

What do many of the 100 richest people in the UK have in common, aside from the fact they are lucky enough to be wealthier than most of us could ever dream of being?

Read more

Tom Watson: Speech to USDAW Annual Delegate Meeting 2017

Tom Watson's speech to the USDAW Annual Conference 2017. 

Read more