Anti-gambling campaigner Tom Watson will “get under the bonnet of the business” as an advisor on responsible gaming.
UK.- Flutter Entertainment, the owner of Paddy Power and PokerStars, has appointed Tom Watson, a former deputy leader of the Labour Party and a vocal campaigner for change in the gaming industry, as an advisor.
Watson will be tasked with advising the company on the development of new standards for safer gambling practices.
Flutter said he will examine all aspects of the business, from Paddy Power’s retail betting shops to the group’s online brands, staff training and marketing to help the company devise ways to protect vulnerable players.
Watson said: “I have a long-standing interest in this sector and consistently called for action to protect those that may be potentially vulnerable to harm.
“In taking on this role in Flutter, I intend to get under the bonnet of the business – and the industry more widely – to understand how best to further develop and implement industry leading responsible gambling policies.
“I strongly believe that working collaboratively with Flutter in this way will allow me to continue to drive positive change.”
Watson served as a member of Parliament for West Bromwich East from 2001 to 2019. He was deputy leader of the Labour Party from September 2015 until December last year and appeared at ICE London this year as a keynote speaker.
A vocal supporter of calls for change in the industry, he was an early advocate for a ban on credit card gambling and for tougher advertising restrictions.
His proposals for limits on spending, stakes and game speed have been taken up by others and are likely to be considered in the government’s forthcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which Watson described as “analogue legislation not fit for the digital age”.
He said: “[Flutter] convinced me that they were serious about letting me . . . jump in at the deep end of the company, learn how they operate and let me share my unvarnished thoughts about what they do.”
Flutter said it had been talking to Watson about the role since spring. The company said he would be paid a retainer of “less than six figures”.
Chief executive Peter Jackson said: “Bringing in someone with Tom’s gambling reform background is an important part of my commitment to lead the industry’s race to the top.
“We have to work harder than ever before to find a way to continue to bring great products and brands to our customers while always having the need to protect the vulnerable clearly in mind.
“Tom will hold a mirror up to help us make sure we are getting this balance right and I welcome the opportunity to work with him and hear what he has to say in coming months.”
David Zeffman, head of gambling and sport at the law firm CMS, described Flutter’s appointment of Watson’s as a “smart move”.
He said Watson had been vocal in his criticism of the industry but was “definitely not an extremist” and that “his proposals were often not foolish”.
Flutter saw revenue rise 49 per cent year-on-year for the first half following its merger with The Stars Group in May.