The UK gaming giant’s new panel, which aims to promote the positive side of gaming, has got off to a controversial start.
UK.- Entain’s new Players’ Panel has come in for harsh criticism as it aims to influence the UK’s current review of gambling legislation with positive views of gaming from customers.
Entain launched the initiative last month with support from CT Group, the political consultancy run by the former prime ministerial advisor Lynton Crosby.
The aim was to provide a voice for customers to share their own views of gaming as the UK proceeds with a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
However, the five-member panel has been compared to astroturfing campaigns by anti-gambling campaigners and has become mired in controversy over racist social media posts made by one member.
Anti-gambling campaigners criticised the campaign for handpicking members and for initially not including Entain’s name or logo on its Facebook page.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of the campaign group Clean Up Gambling, said the panel could give the false appearance of being a grassroots initiative created by members of the public.
He said: “This is reminiscent of astroturfing campaigns that attempt to convey an image of a sector that’s quite distinct from the reality.”
Lord Foster of Bath, chair of Peers for Gambling Reform, said: “Of course there are people who gamble without experiencing harm.
“But if the gambling industry wants to promote examples of such people to try to avoid further curbs on their businesses, they should be more upfront that it’s an industry campaign.
“They should also make clear how they have sampled the population to choose which people they use as examples.
“The gambling debate is a highly complex one and in the current environment, the industry would do well to operate in a transparent and cautious manner.”
Failure to vet panel members
The campaign has been criticised for failing to vet members after one member was found to have shared racist and homophobic quotes on social media.
Entain said it had now removed that customer from the panel, reducing the panel to four customers. However, it rejected claims that the panel was comparable to astroturfing.
The company said: “The panel was organised by Entain, but the views of the panel are entirely their own and are expressed voluntarily.
“The Players’ Panel was created to give a voice to the 99% of gamblers in the UK who bet enjoyably, safely and responsibly, and whose views on the gambling industry often go unheard in the current debate around its future.
“All members of the panel are unpaid volunteers who receive absolutely no beneficial treatment from Entain of any kind.”