In Brief

How Betfred makes millions treating gambling addicts

Company owners also run firm that provides treatment for those hooked on betting

The gambling industry is back under the spotlight after it was revealed that the bookmaker Betfred’s owners make millions from a company that treats gambling addicts.

Following the news, the shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, said the fact the company is simultaneously cashing in from betting and gambling addiction treatment is an “unacceptable conflict of interest”.

What is the connection?

The owners of Betfred are the billionaires Fred and Peter Done. The Guardian has revealed that pair also own Health Assured.

That company’s clients include multiple NHS trusts that treat gambling addicts from the public sector. Health Assured’s website states that the NHS staff can access counselling for issues such as “reckless behaviour”, including excessive drinking or gambling.

The Dones have taken £5.2m in dividends from Health Assured in the past three years. They are also both Tory donors, handing £375,000 to the Conservative party since 2016.

What has the reaction been?

The mental health chief of the NHS, Claire Murdoch, has written to the Gambling Commission to say the health service should not be left to pick up the pieces from gambling firms’ tactics to retain customers with addiction issues.

A government spokesperson said any public authority awarding a contract “should also carry out its own thorough due diligence, including looking for conflicts of interest.”

Health Assured said: “All public sector contracts we have been awarded have thorough due diligence carried out before are they issued, including looking for conflicts of interest.”

Has Betfred been criticised in the past?

One of the UK’s largest bookmakers, Betfred, has previously been criticised for its attitude to problem gambling and towards staff.

Last year, the gambling regulator weighed in after it introduced games that mimicked fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Betfred, which had revenues of £728m last year, was accused of cheating on new rules after high-stakes roulette-style games were launched on the same day as restrictions on curbing fixed-odds betting terminals came into force.

The Guardian says the move was seen as “an attempt to bypass a crackdown on the much-criticised machines”.

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