On the eve of last week’s General Election, betting company JenningsBet sent an email to all its staff about the significance of their vote. It was an email that raised sufficient concern that one of them send a copy to the SKWAWKBOX:
‘FOBT’ stands for fixed odds betting terminals, a subject of controversy because of their alleged influence on potential gambling addiction.
The SKWAWKBOX spoke to Mr Jennings at some length and he commented:
Look, as I said in the email it’s not my place to tell anyone how to vote but I thought it was important for everyone to have the facts. There are MPs involved in the campaign against FOBTs who are extremely well-intentioned but the campaign and the unofficial parliamentary group behind it are funded by casino, hospitality and amusement arcade groups, who obviously stand to gain if there are no betting shops on the high street for people who enjoy gambling.
With regard to the email, my own two kids voted Labour so I’m obviously not that influential. I understand everyone’s concerns but I haven’t said anything I wouldn’t be prepared to stand up and say in public. FOBTs are central to our business and it’s just a fact that if they go or become unprofitable then jobs are at risk.
We’re not the first to do it, either – during the Scottish referendum, John Lewis sent a message to its employees warning them of the consequences of an independence vote.
There is no suggestion that Mr Knight has made any false claims in his email and he was very friendly and helpful during the conversation. However, the email does raise serious questions about the risk of direct corporate influence on the UK’s democratic process. JenningsBet has 100+ locations in the UK and employs over 500 people – people whose vote is highly likely to be influenced by a perceived threat to their jobs.
Five hundred people across the UK may not have a significant impact on the result of a General Election, although only 2,200 votes stood between Labour and 10 Downing Street last week. But there are far larger corporations employing enough people to have a material impact on results in seats and even nationally and the possibility of them influencing their employees’ voting intentions in similar ways is a worrying one.
If your employer made similar representations to you before the election, get in touch in the strictest confidence.
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