A Conservative MP who has publicly argued against tougher restrictions on the casino industry has denied that his role as a paid adviser to a betting group is a conflict of interest.
Laurence Robertson’s entry in the members’ financial interests register shows that he is being paid £ 24,000 to act as “Parliamentary Adviser on Sports and Safer Gaming” for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).
Robertson receives £ 2,000 a month for an “expected” 10 hours of work, which would equate to an hourly rate of £ 200.
BGC states on its website that “as the standard body of the regulated UK betting and gaming industry, with the exception of the National Lottery, we represent betting shops, casinos, online and bingo”.
It adds: “We work with our members, large and small, to pursue high ethical standards, create a culture of safer betting and gaming, and build public and institutional trust in our world-class industry.”
The examination of Mr. Robertson’s role, highlighted by a report in The Times, comes amid questions about MPs’ second job and extra work on top of their parliamentary roles in the wake of Owen Paterson lobby scandal.
Former Conservative former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox defended himself after reports of how he has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds for extra legal work.
In a debate on the UK casino industry in July, Mr Robertson argued against imposing “too strict” restrictions, warning that there was a “great danger” of pushing people towards the black market.
When the government launched a revision of the Gambling Act in December 2020, Mr Robertson said during the debate that betting companies make a “huge contribution” to horse racing, saying the exercise should be “evidence-based, consistent and balanced”.
He reiterated this in September, asking Chris Philp, the new parliamentary deputy secretary at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to confirm that “it will remain the policy of the government to ensure that it is evidence-based and evidence-driven”.
On two of these three occasions, Mr Robertson drew Members ‘attention to his inclusion in the register of members’ financial interests – he did not do so when he made his contribution in December.
In a statement sent to Sky News, Mr Robertson said his “concern has been primarily to protect the horse racing industry”, which “largely depends on betting companies” for income.
“Given that I have the Cheltenham racetrack in my constituency, this is not an unreasonable position for me to take,” the Tewkesbury MP said.
“I have warned against driving people into the black market for gambling – again, not an unreasonable position to take.
“And I have not initiated any of those debates, which is the crucial point as far as the rules are concerned.”
A spokesman for BGC said: “Laurence Robertson is a strong advocate for major changes in the betting industry.
“As a Conservative candidate in the last general election, he actually stood on a manifesto that was specifically committed to reforming the gambling law and ensuring that people play safely.
“His appointment is in accordance with the strict parliamentary rules and has already been declared so that it is fully transparent.”