In February, Rob’s Guardian long read explained in detail some of his findings about the psychological tricks that gambling companies use to keep punters hooked and ensure they come back time and again to lose their money. His explanation of how our brains can be exploited for profit won praise from Derren Brown. The piece drew on complex academic research and testimony and brought it to a mass audience in a way that showed the activity of gambling in a new light.
His story about “stake factoring” uncovered something that punters had long suspected about the £11bn gambling industry but that had never been exposed beyond doubt. Rob’s reporting explained the complex mechanisms that betting firms use to ensure they never lose. He did so by drawing on his contacts in the gambling world, working with confidential sources to obtain documentary evidence and multiple corroborating accounts of behind-the-scenes activity at major gambling operators.
Finally, Rob landed a story he’d been trying to prove for four years: that football clubs have deals with gambling companies under which they receive a cut of a punter's losses. The story drew widespread condemnation from supporters, MPs and campaigners, and came at a time when the government is considering whether to ban the industry from sponsoring football clubs.