Stars of BBC’s Dragons’ Den have turned down an investment opportunity because of their ‘moral concerns’ about problem gambling.
Long-term ‘Dragons’ Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones refused to invest in online interactive prize business ‘Elite Competitions’ despite agreeing it could make money.
Figures from the National Gambling Helpline recorded an increase in problem gamblers from 22,875 in 2013-14, to 29,889 in 2017-18.
Friends and business partners James and Alex developed a website where users can choose a prize and then select a number which is drawn from a live-streamed random ball machine.
Users can bet up to £30 per prize draw – depending on the value of the prize – and up to six times a week. Prizes include cars, holidays and other multi-thousand pound items.
Entrepreneur Peter Jones was the first to question the idea, asking, “what about the people that don’t have the money to buy such a car, so it’s really clearly appealing, and they become addicted to this?”
“If I enter the competition for a car, say £40,000 of money has come in to the two of you but a whole multitude of people have lost”.
The business duo also have plans to expand their business, which currently has 12,000 site users, onto mobile apps.
But Jones said he couldn’t be part of a business investment that would put people at risk of serious financial loss and gambling addiction.
He expressed concern for those who are vulnerable to addiction, saying: “They have a chance to win but I just feel that at that level, when you’re taking it to the big cars and the big holidays, it just makes me feel uncomfortable”.
Deborah Meaden, who spent her earlier life working in the arcade and gaming industry, and described herself as “the perfect dragon” for the duo also refused to make an offer.
She said, “when I was in the gaming industry the maximum that you could pledge was £2.40 cash or £4.80 tokens… you are moving too far on the side of high stakes for people who can’t afford it”.
The business plan was backed by Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani, who each offered £25,000 for 12.5 per cent of the business.