Tom Watson takes job as adviser to Paddy Power and Betfair

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Tom Watson takes job as adviser to Paddy Power and Betfair

For £100,000 odds on it will work in their favour.

Tom Watson, the former Labour MP who was one of parliament’s most virulent campaigners for gambling reform has taken a principled stance and accepted a job working for the company he described as “dirty” and “money-grabbing.” 

Former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, has accepted an advisory role with the owner of Paddy Power this week, Mr Watson, who left Parliament last year, was a campaigner for stricter rules on gambling while he was an MP.

He is joining Flutter, which owns brands like Paddy Power and Betfair, Watson previously described the company’s actions as “dirty” and “money-grabbing” after it took bets on the murder trial of former athlete Oscar Pistorius.

In an exchange with a company representative on BBC Radio 5 Live, Watson also said the company was “not remotely interested in anything other than making money”.

Betfair co-founder Edward Wray is well known for his huge donations to the Conservative party.

The firm said he will “bring a fresh and robust voice into the business, as it looks for ways to protect “vulnerable customers,” while serving those who enjoy gambling safely.

Flutter, which also owns Sky Bet and Poker Stars, saw its pre-tax profits slump 70% to £24m in August, after being hit by coronavirus and the costs of a merger. The company is seeking to expand further into online poker and gaming.

Flutter Entertainment, which owns Paddy Power, Betfair and SkyBet, said it would pay Watson a retainer, understood to be less than £100,000, to advise it on tackling problem gambling.

Watson’s appointment comes ahead of the launch later this year of a government review of gambling law, which could result in sweeping changes to the regulation of the industry.

Watson justified the decision as an opportunity to effect change from within.

Mr 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.

He added: “I strongly believe that working collaboratively with Flutter in this way will allow me to continue to drive positive change”.

Mr Watson has previously called for an end to gambling advertising on football shirts, and a ban on television ads during live events and called gambling was a “hidden epidemic”.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, who runs the Clean Up Gambling campaign group and was also an adviser to Jeremy Corbyn when Watson was Labour deputy leader, said: “We hope Flutter doesn’t stand in the way of the reforms their new adviser once proposed.

The role with Flutter, first reported by the Financial Times, is not the first post Watson has taken in the private sector since leaving Westminster. He also became chairman of UK Music, where his close friend and fellow former Labour MP Michael Dugher was chief executive until he left to lead the Betting & Gaming Council, which lobbies on behalf of bookmakers and online casinos.

As Labour’s deputy leader, Watson led a review that saw the party reverse the stance taken under the leadership of Tony Blair, whose government introduced the 2005 Gambling Act that introduced some of the world’s loosest gambling laws.

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