Ralph Topping the Chief Executive of William Hill has removed his Twitter account from public view following a heated exchange with anti-FOBT campaigners.
The argument happened at the beginning of January and was initially an exchange of Twitter communications by William Hill’s public affairs manager, Andrew Lyman and The Campaign for Fairer Gambling group that is funded by millionaire ex-poker player and former games inventor Derek Webb.
In an argument over the merits of a Daily Mail article headlined “Gambling’s crack cocaine” about “betting machines that enslave the poor and earn bookies BILLIONS”, Mr Topping joined the debate on Twitter saying “his uncle died in WW2 for freedom. He would (twirl) in his overseas grave at its restriction. Died for honesty. Great value to die for”.
As the exchanges got more heated the boss of William Hill then said that the campaigners were hiding their funding source and had “success fees” for driving out FOBTs from bookmaker shops, in total the Twitter jousting lasted seven hours.
Only a few days later Topping took his Twitter account private – and his tweets disappeared from public view.
The FOBT debate is a high stakes one, analysts say that they are worth £1.5 billion in profits for bookmakers and represents 25% of William Hill’s earnings.
If politicians acted to reduce the maximum bet on FOBTs by 50% of the current limit then William Hill’s group pre-tax profit for 2015 would be 30% lower than at present. Even lowering the amount of FOBTs in a shop by one machine would still take 10% from William Hill’s total profits for the year.
William Hill spokeswoman Kate Miller said “it was a reasoned debate that is commonplace on social media. He was raising questions about the campaigner’s funding. Ralph Topping took his account private because he is travelling.”