Gambling’s rich pastures are proving to be a fertile hunting ground for superannuated UK Labour Party politicians.
Only a week after former Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson joined Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment as an advisor, sports betting and iGaming operator 888 has appointed Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, New Labour insider and stalwart, with close connections to former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as its chair designate and a non-executive director.
In what some have described as “poacher turned gamekeeper”, Watson—once an outspoken anti-gambling campaigner, having previously slammed his new employers for taking odds on the outcome of the murder trial of South African paraplegic superstar sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who eventually went down for killing his girlfriend—will now “advise” Flutter on best practice.
Despite the negative history, Watson, who resigned his West Bromwich East seat before the UK’s 2019 election, asserted:
“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.
“I strongly believe that working collaboratively with Flutter in this way will allow me to continue to drive positive change.”
Peter Jackson, chief executive at Flutter Entertainment, said: “We have to work harder than ever before to find a way to continue to bring great products and brands to our customers while always having the need to protect the vulnerable clearly in mind. Tom will hold a mirror up to help us make sure we are getting this balance right.”
Lord Mendelsohn—not to be confused with another top Blair ally and New Labour architect, Peter Mandelson–will succeed Brian Mattingley as chair of 888’s board, to be confirmed at the firm’s AGM in May 2021.
He has over 20-years experience of the gambling industry, having co-founded Oakvale Capital, an investment boutique that focuses on gambling and sports.
Director of general election resources for the Labour party in 2007 and a Labour life peer since 2013, he said: “888 is a company that I have long admired.
“The group has a number of very exciting opportunities and I am looking forward to working closely with the board and the management team to continue to deliver the group’s growth strategy and generate further stakeholder value.”
888 is certainly ringing in the changes. Earlier this month it named Yariv Dafna as its new CFO.
Citing a structural shift to online casino and growth in poker, amid the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, it’s slated to announce higher-than-forecast results for H1 2020, which will be unveiled at the end of this month, September.