Cover-up undermines credibility of GambleAware

  1. Here I describe a cover-up by GambleAware, the leading gambling charity, that undermines its credibility.
  2. GambleAware, formerly called the Responsible Gambling Trust (registered charity number: 1093910), is a national charity “committed to minimising gambling-related harm.” It does this by funding research, education and treatment services. Funded itself by donations from the gambling industry, the self-styled independent charity works closely with the industry – too closely for critics. I first wrote about GambleAware on 27 February 2017, identifying four main problems with the charity. Here’s another: it recently instituted a cover-up.
  3. On 28 March 2017, GambleAware published a news item on its website, entitled “Evaluation of MOSES” (screen shot in Figure 1). MOSES is the Multi Operator Self Exclusion Scheme for betting shops, a national scheme run by Multi Operator Self Exclusion Scheme Ltd (registered company number: 10269436). The company in turn is a wholly-owned but self-styled stand-alone subsidiary of the Senet Group (registered company number: 09310491).

    Figure 1. GambleAware news page at 30 March 2017

  4. Anyone wanting to control his or her high-street gambling can, with a single phone call to MOSES, register an initial wish to self-exclude from a self-selected group of betting shops, regardless of operator (self-exclusion.co.uk). A photo is required, which is shared with the relevant operators “to help staff recognise someone who has self-excluded and intervene if he or she breaches that undertaking.”
  5. The Senet Group is “an independent body set up to promote responsible gambling standards and ensure that the marketing of gambling is socially responsible,” says its website. Membership is open to “any gambling operator, and any associated organisation.” On 28 March 2017, the Senet Group, too, announced the MOSES evaluation on its website (screen shot in Figure 2). Its news item linked to the press release on the GambleAware website.

    Figure 2. Senet Group news page at 30 March 2017

  6. The GambleAware press release states that the charity had commissioned the evaluation of MOSES. The evaluation was carried out by company Chrysalis Research UK Limited (registered company number: 07375791). I didn’t understand why the original version of the Chrysalis Research report the charity published didn’t refer to GambleAware at all, astonishingly.
  7. On 29 March 2017, I therefore emailed the report’s author, Louise Duffy, seeking an explanation for the omission of GambleAware in her report. She’s a director of the research company. Having heard nothing, I sent a reminder a week later. This time Ms Duffy replied, on 6 April 2017, saying only: “Apologies for the delay. The published report does now have the acknowledgement in it and is attached here for your information.”
  8. The next day I pointed out in an email that she hadn’t explained, though, why the original version of the report didn’t refer to GambleAware at all. On 10 April 2017, Ms Duffy wrote: “It was an oversight on our part and we should have included that it was commissioned by GambleAware, hence the amendment made.”
  9. I wanted to be clear: did GambleAware really commission the evaluation, as stated in the accompanying press release? A related question is: what exactly is the relationship between the charity and the Senet Group anyway? I shall explain why the relationship is so important in a later post.
  10. The original version of the report was dated 23 March 2017 on the front cover. The file creation date in the file metadata as well is 23 March 2017 (screen shot in Figure 3). Here’s the original version, downloaded from the GambleAware website on 29 March 2017: jn175-moses-evaluation-final-report-230317.

    Figure 3. Original version of report: PDF document properties

  11. The revised version, though, remains dated 23 March 2017 on the front cover, which is misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. The file creation date in the file metadata, meanwhile, is now later – 30 March 2017 (screen shot in Figure 4). Here’s the revised version, downloaded from the GambleAware website on 7 April 2017: jn175-moses-evaluation-report-final-report-230317.

    Figure 4. Revised version of report: PDF document properties

  12. At date of publication the report linked to on the charity website is the revised version I downloaded on 7 April 2017.
  13. There’s no record in the revised version that it’s actually been revised, which again is misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. Similarly, it’s misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such, that the revised version fails to explain the reason for the changes.
  14. What’s worse, GambleAware simply swapped the files in the news item dated 28 March 2017 – again misleading and dishonest, or could be perceived as such. Thus the charity hid the change of files (screen shot in Figure 5).

    Figure 5. GambleAware news page at 7 April 2017

  15. I asked Iain Corby at GambleAware in an email why the charity had failed to document on its website the fact that it’d swapped the files – and when. Also, the reason for doing so. Accuracy and transparency, I added, are essential for public trust and confidence in GambleAware and its work. Mr Corby, now deputy chief exec, simply said in his response: the “researcher corrected a minor error.” He said nothing about the charity hiding the change of files. Mr Corby also told me he wasn’t prepared to answer any further queries from me. (I’d explicitly acknowledged him in my 27 February 2017 post for being responsive and willing to engage in discussion. I also phoned then to thank him verbally.)
  16. ADDENDUM: On the subject of self-exclusion, a GambleAware trustee has seemingly failed to declare a relevant interest on the online trustee register of interests. I refer to Clive Hawkswood (screen shot in Figure 6), who is sole director of company The National Online Self Exclusion Scheme Limited (NOSES; registered company number: 10504973), too, according to Companies House records. The company is creating and will operate NOSES, an equivalent self-exclusion scheme for online gambling.

    Figure 6. Trustee Clive Hawkswood’s declared interests at 30 March 2017

  17. On this point Mr Corby said in his email: “Clive Hawkswood’s interest with the RGA [Remote Gambling Association], which is developing NOSES, is already registered.” True, but Mr Hawkswood is sole director of The National Online Self Exclusion Scheme Limited: his role at the company should surely be declared for full disclosure.
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Company donation to Mark Spencer MP requires explanation

  1. On 13 April 2017, Mark Spencer, Conservative MP for Sherwood and an Assistant Government Whip, declared a cash donation of £2.15k on the register of MPs’ financial interests. It came from SJ Ankh Ltd, a local company; but the registered company number that Mr Spencer stated fails to match that on the Companies House register. The mismatch between company name and number requires explanation. Further, while £2.15k may not be a huge amount, here I show that Mr Spencer’s declaration on the register means we’re talking telephone numbers.
  2. Farmer Mr Spencer, who was first elected MP for Sherwood in May 2010, listed 9654867 as company number. Yet the registered company number of SJ Ankh Ltd is 10525122, according to Companies House records. While 9654867 is the company number of Bedfordshire Land Promotions Ltd.
  3. There’s something else about number 9654867, though. It’s the phone number for Sherwood Conservative Association (without prefix 0115, area code for Nottingham).
  4. Samuel (“Sam”) Ancliff is sole director of SJ Ankh Ltd, which is a new company. He’s “deputy chairman (membership)” of Ashfield and Mansfield Conservatives, too, says his Twitter biography (screen shot in Figure 1). On 4 May 2017, Mr Ancliff stood unsuccessfully in the local elections, as Conservative candidate for county councillor in Kirkby North, Nottinghamshire County Council. He came second, behind Labour’s John Knight.

    Figure 1. Sam Ancliff on Twitter at 9 May 2017

  5. Mr Spencer, who is Conservative candidate for Sherwood in the current general election, didn’t respond to requests for comment (emails). Neither did Sherwood Conservatives. Where’s the “strong and stable leadership”?
  6. Mr Ancliff, however, said in an email: “Besides that it is a [sic] clearly a simple admin error on someone’s part, I have nothing further to contribute to your blog.” Well, if so, who exactly made “a simple admin error,” and where?

Company gets its own name wrong in ad – and ASA says it’s ok

  1. On 11 April 2017, I saw an unclear and misleading ad for the “Bio-Mag Therapy Bracelet” in the Daily Mirror newspaper, p.35. Here’s a scanned copy of the ad: Daily Mirror 11 April 2017 p.35. The advertiser is UK Direct Shop Ltd, which specifies a UK address.
  2. The ad is unclear and misleading because there’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
  3. When I rang the phone number in the ad, no one could explain why UK Direct Shop Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “UK Direct Shop” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
  4. The ad refers to a website, where the company is identified as UK Direct Shop Services Ltd (screen shot in Figure 1). This company is on the Companies House register – registered company number: 09658267.

    Figure 1. UK Direct Shop homepage at 12 April 2017

  5. I complained about the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In an email the advertising regulator dismissed my complaint: “Under the advertising codes, there is no requirement of an advertiser to state their full company name in their own advertising – they only need to ensure that they don’t mislead consumers by omitting their identity. As both you and I have been able to easily locate them on Companies House from the details in the ad [the website], we don’t propose further action on this occasion.”
  6. I told the ASA I was baffled by its reasoning. An inaccurate company name is misleading, too, by definition.
  7. I had thought a consumer could reasonably expect a company to get its own name right in an ad. It seems not.

BuzzFeed re-examines Give Us Time after my investigation

  1. On 29 April 2017, James Ball at BuzzFeed re-examined Give Us Time, a military charity founded in 2012 by Dr Liam Fox MP. This was after my recent investigation (see 20 April 2017 post).
  2. Special Correspondent Ball named and credited me. His report: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jamesball/liam-foxs-military-charity-has-still-helped-just-a-fraction.