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Stop the FOBTs

Stop the FOBTs - INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN

PLACING FOBTS ON THE POLITICAL AGENDA

Campaign for Fairer Gambling wanted to raise awareness of the issues of problem gambling on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), so bcsAgency developed an integrated campaign that boosted online presence, made the front page of national press, got Campaign consultants on prime time TV and placed the issue firmly on the political agenda.

The brief

bcsAgency was engaged by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling to deliver a grass roots campaign to raise awareness and educate key stakeholders on the issues around Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) – high street betting shop roulette gaming machines – with the aim of reducing the maximum stake to £2 and removing addictive roulette content from FOBTs in high street betting shops.

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The challenge

As a little known issue on the political agenda and with only a small number of people understanding the concept of FOBTs, the Campaign and bcsAgency needed to develop a strategy to explain FOBTs and highlight why they are considered most addictive compared to any other form of gambling activity.

Identifying and working with relevant stakeholder groups including MPs, local councillors, local authorities, gambling support groups, special interest groups, FOBT players, members of the public, the bookmaking industry, betting shop staff and the national, trade and regional media has been an ongoing focus for the Campaign. bcsAgency has worked closely with Campaign Consultants to find the most appropriate ways to reach its audience and tailor messages appropriately.

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The solution

The Campaign adopted an integrated communications approach underpinned by media relations and supported by a dedicated campaign website with supporting social media assets.

Identifying and working with relevant stakeholder groups including MPs, local councillors, local authorities, gambling support groups, special interest groups, FOBT players, members of the public, the bookmaking industry, betting shop staff and the national, trade and regional media has been an ongoing focus for the Campaign. bcsAgency has worked closely with Campaign Consultants to find the most appropriate ways to reach its audience and tailor messages appropriately.

After establishing key messaging and desired outcomes, including clear, concise and often educational messaging around descriptions of FOBTs, the team built a body of evidence around FOBTs and their association with problem gambling. By engaging with key documentary makers and subject matter experts to act as spokespeople, two consultants were retained – a former FOBT addict and a regional machine manager and betting industry manager turned whistleblower.

Ongoing targeted activity aimed at national, local and betting trade media built momentum around key events including: Dispatches and Panorama documentaries featuring FOBTs; the Government’s consultation of Gambling Machine Stakes and Prizes (The Triennial Review); the Newham court case against Paddy Power betting shop and an Edinburgh betting shop incident where a frustrated FOBT player attacked a member of staff, generating an opinion piece in the Scotsman.

An on-going letter writing exercise to the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Gambling Commission, Local Authorities, MPs and Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) was also implemented.

In addition to embarking on a series of face to face meetings with key stakeholders, submissions were made to nationwide Local Authority gambling licensing consultations and supported the Local Authority in the widely publicised case in Newham, in which the council took a bookmaker to court to prevent the application for the 82nd new betting shop in the borough.

Targeted press ads were also placed in The House magazine during spring Party Conference season and a wraparound banner asking for MPs to take a stance on FOBTs was secured with the Northants Telegraph during the Corby by-election.

Following research undertaken by Geofutures for the Dispatches programme, the campaign commissioned the organisation to research the number of FOBTs and cross gambling yield in each UK Parliamentary constituency. This research data was analysed against Gambling Industry statistics and industry analysis on FOBTs and formed the basis for a series of press stories and content for the StoptheFOBTs website. Analysis was also tailored and utilised in a UK-wide localised grass roots campaign.

Based on the research findings, www.StoptheFOBTs.org was launched in early 2013, offering a dedicated platform for individuals to contact their MP to raise awareness of the issues around FOBTs, submit evidence to be used as part of the Triennial Review on Gambling Machine Stakes and Prizes, or contact the campaign in confidence with FOBT-related stories. The website’s functionality also allows visitors to type in their postcode and identify how many FOBTs are located within their constituency.

The Stop the FOBTs campaign was formally launched in February 2013 with bcsAgency organising an event at the Houses of Parliament, hosted by David Lammy MP and attended by over 60 MPs, supporters, specialist interest groups and national journalists.

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The results

Over 1,800 pieces of coverage have been generated since its launch, including an extensive profile piece on the campaign’s founder in the Guardian and a live TV debate on Newsnight.

To date, 480 pieces of national coverage have been obtained, 1,064 regional pieces and 222 articles in gambling trade press. Broadcast coverage includes a Panorama special, discussions on Sky’s Ian King Live and BBC 2’s Victoria Derbyshire Show, Daybreak, BBC Politics Show, Wales This Week, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC East Midlands Today and BBC regional radio. The campaign’s research was also cited in a Mintel report on gambling.

As a direct result of publicity around Stop the FOBTs, the Campaign’s consultants were invited to meetings with the Responsible Gambling Trust; the Gambling Commission; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; supportive MPs; Local Authorities and councils. The Campaign was also invited to take part in a debate with the IEA.

The Campaign’s prominence also resulted in the launch of a ‘counter campaign’ by the Association of British Bookmakers, entitled ‘Back Your Local Bookie’, mirroring the structure of Stop the FOBTs.

What Stop the FOBTs think.

“It’s normally Derek, Matt or I in the papers, on the Radio or television, but behind the scenes is a well-oiled PR operation that keeps the three of us on track, coordinated and in the news promoting our objectives. This campaign really is a team effort and I am extremely grateful to the team at bcsAgency for the part they are playing in making this campaign a success.”

Adrian Parkinson, Campaign for Fairer Gambling Consultant