Fred and Peter Done who own the bookmaker Betfred have been revealed also operating Health Assured, a health and wellbeing firm that provides treatment for mental health issues including problem gambling.
While Health Assured is run as an entirely separate business to Betfred, they are both ultimately owned by the Done brothers. The billionaire brothers have been accused by the Guardian of making millions from a business paid for by taxpayers that treats public sector staff for the very problems their other business encourages.
Done owned Peninsula Business Services, parent company of Health Assured, provides support to businesses on issues such as employment law and wellbeing at work under the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).
The Dones currently hold at least £2.5 million worth of government contracts to provide health and wellbeing programmes to staff, some of which include taxpayer-funded clients such as NHS trusts that treat gambling addicts. In actual fact, that figure could well be much higher as some multimillion-pound contracts are distributed to multiple firms and as such are not individually itemised to show which company they went to.
What we do know is that some of these contracts are with public sector bodies, including the Houses of Parliament, local authorities and the Ministry of Defence. It also includes the personal employees of members of parliament some of whom we are led to believe have called for tighter restrictions on gambling.
£5.2 Million In Dividends
Since 2016, the brothers, who are worth more than £1.25 billion, have raked in £5.2 million in dividends from the business, some £375,000 of which has been pumped into the coffers of the Conservative party by way of donations made through their holding company Rainy City Investments.
Upon learning that Health Assured provides its services to multiple NHS trusts, NHS mental health officer, Claire Murdoch labelled gambling companies providing clinics to treat the very people they have triggered as hypocrisy and tokenism.
Conservative MP, Iain Duncan Smith, who co-chairs a cross-party group on gambling, agreed that the whole process of creating a problem then getting paid to fix it is cynical, while Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jon Ashworth, said the Dones were demonstrating an unacceptable conflict of interest.
Murdoch took the step of writing a letter to the gambling firms, including Betfred, this week saying ;
“As the head of England’s mental health services and a nurse of more than 30 years’ experience, I have seen first-hand the devastating impact on mental wellbeing of addiction and am concerned that the prevalence of gambling in our society is causing harm.
In particular, I am concerned that offering people who are losing vast sums of money free tickets, VIP experiences, and free bets, all proactively prompt people back into the vicious gambling cycle which many want to escape. For seven decades the NHS has adapted services in response to current challenges, but we should not be expected to pick up the pieces from lives damaged by avoidable harm.”
Murdoch’s letter follows the Gambling Commission’s decision this week to introduce a ban on customers placing bets with their credit cards.
From Rags To Riches
As well as making political donations, the brothers do maintain a charitable trust that once donated Betfred’s profits from the first day of the Cheltenham festival to the Royal Manchester children’s hospital as well as pledging £200 for every century break achieved at the snooker World Championship to the Jessie May children’s charity.
Clearly the Done brothers are winning big in this scenario but it hasn’t always been this way. Growing up in what Peter Done described as the slums of Salford, the brothers both left school at 15 without qualifications to take up work in their father’s bookmaking business. They went into business for themselves in 1967, funded by the profits of a successful bet on England’s World Cup victory the year before. Today, Betfred is one of the UK’s biggest gambling companies, making £728 million in 2019.