Thursday January 16,2014 : BITTER TWITTER EXCHANGES ON F.O.B.T.s
Given the proclivity for insults to creep into online public debates, was this really a smart idea?
The Guardian newspaper reports that the chief executive officer of one of Britain's most successful land and online gambling groups became involved in a bitter seven hour exchange on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals through the Twitter social network last week that probably left all involved a little bruised.
William Hill plc chief Ralph Topping, a distinguished businessman and 44-year veteran of the company, appeared to retire from the at times heated discussion and later took his Twitter account private, a move which means that previous tweets are no longer immediately visible to the public and followers have to put in a request to follow the account holder.
The main protagonists in the Saturday night online confrontation were Campaign for Fairer Gambling lobbyist and former bookie Adrian Parkinson, who is campaigning for restrictions on FOBTs; William Hill PR man Andrew Lyman; and Topping, but others who piled in on the exchanges included Labour Party politician Tom Watson, who suggested that Lyman be fired for his attitude.
The exchanges were triggered by one of the many anti-FOBT articles carried by the Daily Mail and started with Lyman and Parkinson exchanging views which – as is so often the case in this sort of very public but remote environment – soon went negative, with not-so-veiled insults and barbed comments.
Topping came in later and exchanged jabs with Parkinson which resulted in questions regarding "success fees", organisational funding, "shifty" practices, lack of transparency and being out of touch with the real world at betting shop level, even descending to why British servicemen laid down their lives in the Second World War.
As the flaming escalated, other contributors fired in barbs that did little to calm the increasingly intemperate expressions of personal opinion, doing little credit to those involved.
Parkinson, apparently unrepentant, subsequently told The Guardian:
"Topping's Twitter explosion highlights the extent to which even experienced industry figures like him have now lost sight of what a betting shop is and are determined at all costs to maintain an addictive high-revenue product that has turned shops into mini high street casinos."
William Hill spokeswoman Kate Miller described the exchanges as "…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."
Our readers can judge for themselves the value of the discussion here: