Comment: Don’t lose your nerve Boris! / Lords above / Dear Rishi…

Comment 2736 easing restrictions betting and gaming council Michael Dugher economy gambling industry
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Don’t lose your nerve Boris!

Now’s not the time to be spooked by the modellers of doom.

The late Spring Bank Holiday which saw Britain’s seaside resorts thronged with day-trippers and traders at last being able to make hay, put into sharp relief exactly what society and the economy has been missing and what it yearns for when the final restrictions are due to be lifted later this month on June 21.

Yet still the doom mongers are urging the PM to delay, delay and delay that little bit more due to caution and uncertainty regarding the Indian or as we are now being told to refer to it, the Delta variant.

At the time of writing the figures published on June 2nd show daily cases at 4,330 (+1,150 v last week), the numbers in hospital at 923 (down 33) and daily deaths at 12 (up 3).

Significantly, just shy of 60 percent of the UK population has received at least one jab with the Government on course to meet its target of having all of us aged 50 and over double vaccinated by the end of June.

The fundamental difference between now and the situation we were in last autumn is the efficacy of the vaccine and the monumental success of the immunisation programme.

The vaccine provides a good level of protection and there is no longer the proportionate link between infection, hospitalisation and death – the figures show that.

comment sketchCases of infection will of course grow as society opens up but we must not be spooked by this. Significantly, the groups that are in the PM’s ear urging caution and continuing the restrictions are academics, scientists and ‘modellers’ – the latest rock star status professional grouping to have come to prominence during the last bleak 15-months: incidentally, it was modellers who last March were predicting death tolls of 5,000 a week and a total loss of life in excess of half a million.

These people have nothing to lose from extending lockdown and some might suggest quite a lot to gain.

Compare and contrast with the victims of lockdown. The people (young and middleaged) who have been made redundant, the people whose family enterprises have been butchered, the people who have provided personal guarantees to finance their enterprises, those who have pre-ordered goods in the expectation of reopening premises that have been closed for 18-months and those who face the very real threat of bankruptcy.

And what happens when the Indian (Delta) variant has been replaced by another mutation? The logical extension is to put society and the economy into perma-lockdown, a 21st century economic and social ice age.

Despite his reputational mauling by Dominic Cummings the PM must hold his nerve and resist the doom mongers and mathematical modellers – the alternative is to depressing and damaging to countenance.


Lords above

A group of peers have come to the conclusion that reining back the gaming and gambling industry with more restrictive and expensive regulation will lead to a boost to the economy.

You have to admire Betting & Gaming Council chief Michael Dugher, he says it as it is. When a House of Lords Committee, the Peers for Gambling Reform, drew the conclusion that tighter regulations will lead to a growth in the economy, Dugher described the assessment as ‘economically daft’.

He criticised the findings as based on ‘fantasy figures’ , a ‘dream of anti-gambling prohibitionists’ and ‘frankly for the birds’.

To a certain extent, you could argue that Dugher was being generous.

This is a group that earns £323 a day, receives travel expenses to one of the most beautiful offices in the country, support for their spouses to travel with them, and hefty discounts for as much gravy as they want on the train as they dine en route to the House.

This is the institution that was found guilty of systematically defrauding the British public on a widespread scale through its expenses claims. The Lords are hardly in a position to be holier than thou.

And yet this is the institution that is judging the credibility of the gaming and gambling industry.

On a constitutional basis, the House of Lords has neither right nor place in modern Britain; it’s the second chamber of Parliament that needs radical reform, not so much the gambling industry.

But, these wise men of yore do have a voice – a bit like Father Jack Hackett in Father Ted – but instead of ‘feck’, ‘arse’ and ‘drink’, this group of peers are shouting ban, enforcement, affordability checks from their leather cushioned benches in Parliament.

As you may have detected, this author is no fan of the House of Lords. But I’m no Guy Fawkes either.

I just expect common sense and balanced conclusions to be made from evidence. Not, as appears in this case, evidence cobbled together to fit in with pre-determined conclusions.

As an academic exercise, the peers report has little value – and probably cost a bit of money too. It comes from an anti-gambling, prohibitionist starting point and ends up exactly where it intended to.

Affordabilty checks won’t work; cutting the economic legs off the gambling industry will not bring more money into the economy; jobs lost from strangling regulation will not be replaced on the desperate high street; and problem gambling will not be eradicated – partly because, the harsh reality is, addictive behavioural patterns in so many cases are determined more by the person than the addictive product itself.

You don’t need to be an economist to recognise that these conclusions are nonsense. You just need to be a privileged Lord or a politically motivated think tank to flout them.

Either way, they make no sense. Which brings us neatly back to the House of Lords!


Dear Rishi…

Has boom time for Rishi Sunak reached its zenith?

This week, many businesses are beginning to receive their rates demand letters, notification from the banks about repayments for their CBILS loans, third quarter rent demands, and some like SB’s Paolo Sidoli and Whitehouse’s Phil Setter notification of a price hike for transportation.

Gambling Commission fees and VAT quarter returns aside, reopening is coming at a hefty price – more so for the supply chain which is still reeling from a government pandemic response that has ripped it apart.

It will not take long for businesses in our industry, and indeed every industry, to start the re-evaluation of the Treasury’s response to recovery.

For many, Rishi Sunak has thrown money at everyone except the supply chain. These coming months, that failure might well come back to haunt him.

This is now the time to contact local MPs and every person with influence about the real cost of Covid.

The Treasury hasn’t eased the problems; it’s just deferred them. And the beleaguered supply chain has been left stranded – with more debts and more obstruction.

Sunak has a small window of opportunity to help repair that damage. Otherwise he might fall victim to an economic model he must surely be aware of: after a boom often follows a bust.

And as a canny politician, he must recognise that he’s had his boom time. He now needs to work his testicles off to avoid the bust.

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