For someone who has waged his very own private battle with addiction, launching an online gambling site might not seem to have been the most sensible move. But this has not stopped the former Take That singer – Robbie Williams, from starting up his new poker site, which is due to open some time this year. The 37-year-old singer, who was the youngest member of Take That when he joined at 16, has apparently angered his loyal fans by spear heading the gambling site and many have taken to the media to voice their concerns. And they are not the only ones. The former Angels singer has been slated by anti-gambling campaigners who claim that this is nothing more than a venture to rake in cash from addicts who are vulnerable from gambling.
The organisers of the site claim that the main focus is to have ‘fun’ but there are some games that you do have to pay for to be able to play. Although Robbie has a massive fan base, it appears that many of them are not happy about his latest venture; as remarks are popping up such as “Taking advantage of vulnerable people for financial gain does not sit right with me,” appearing on his official website from one fan. Another took the time to comment, “I thought Robbie understood addiction. Wonder how many families this will ruin?” and “I cannot understand how a singer fan site can encourage/incentivate his fans to play poker on line, that’s a real concern…” And even politicians are airing their views on the subject with Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt said it was disgraceful the star was making money from addicts – seeing as the singer was once famously addicted to anti-depressants. In a statement to The Daily Mirror she said, “I’m outraged by this. It directly targets his fans, including children. The money he makes should go to addiction charities.’
The problem the fans seem to be having is with this part of an email, sent out to all who have registered to the official website of Robbie Williams, where it informs them of the new poker site. In the ‘Rewards Section’, it highlights what participants can hope to win: ‘Robbie Williams Poker gives you the chance to play for some seriously attractive prizes that start with exclusive virtual Robbie related items, discounts on real merchandise, sneak peeks for music and video downloads, pre-sale and giveaways for concert gigs and even the unique opportunity for a meet and greet the artist himself. With every hand dealt you get closer the star!’ The fans are concerned that the more obsessive ones amongst them will be playing the poker games for hours on end, in an attempt to meet their favourite star. One fan went so far as to write, “Gambling is addictive and anyone with an addictive personality understands the dangers of crossover addictions. Once you win for free, you can sooo easily think you ‘know’ how to win for money. Let’s win big! Let’s win Robbie! If someone talked Rob into this ‘idea’ I’m angry – on many levels – but if this is Rob’s idea I’m worried – I’m worried for all of my Friends.” The forum on Robbie’s website is going into overdrive over this, with some fans seeing it as a bit of harmless fun, whilst others view it as a real problem. I guess we and the fans will have to wait and see.
Robbie got married in August of 2010 and has always credited his wife, U.S. actress Ayda Field, with being instrumental in helping him crack his addictive ways. Speaking of their relationship, he said, “She didn’t try to change me and, just like that, she changed me for the better. I’m in love with someone who returns this love as strongly. I’ve never experienced that. That’s what makes me so careful in this relationship. I don’t want to hurt Ayda.” Robbie caused a sensation when it was reported that he had checked himself into rehab in February 2007. he famously said afterwards that he did so because ‘death came knocking.’ The public learned in interviews post this stay that he had been battling a serious addiction to pain killers for many years. Commenting about his addicition he said, “I have a self-destructive character but does this hold me back from being happy? No.”
Although Robbie has not given any interviews about the up and coming poker site, a spokesman for him said the plan was still in its very early stages and denied the star’s intention was to make money.