Nearly £ 225,000 in salaries and freebies taken from the gaming industry by 28 MPs | Gambling

On July 7, the conservative MP for Blackpool South, Scott Benton, took a seat at Wembley to watch England take on Denmark in the semi-finals of the Euro 2020, thanks to Ladbrokes Coral owner Entain – a freebie worth £ 3,457.

Less than four hours earlier, Benton had warned parliament that a review of betting legislation, which is largely expected to result in stricter regulation, must not be driven by anti-gambling “ideology”.

He called for casinos to be allowed more slot machines, adding that many people would be “concerned” about the Gambling Commission’s plans for affordability checks on people who bet online and in person, a measure aimed at preventing devastating losses.

Days earlier, he had enjoyed another day in Ascot, thanks to the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) trading body. In all, he welcomed hospitality worth £ 7,495 during a gambling-funded summer of sports.

In all, according to a Guardian audit, 28s MPs – 19 Conservatives and the rest Labor – have received nearly £ 225,000 in salaries and freebies from the gambling industry since August 2020.

Conservative MP Scott Benton. Photo: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor / PA

During the same debate in which Benton spoke – one of his two speeches favoring the gaming industry that month – Labor’s John Spellar interceded. He referred to the urgent need to “improve and continue the attractiveness of the UK” as a casino destination.

He had recently been a guest of Paddy Power owner Flutter at England’s match against Germany and was due to take part in cricket at Lord’s the following month at a cost of £ 874.80 to BGC, whose members include major casino companies.

For the gaming industry, it was a busy month for both hospitality and political unfoldment about the regulation of the future.

On July 13, Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson expressed “serious concerns” about the prospect of the government imposing betting limits, in an article sponsored by BGC, for the Conservative Home’s website. The article appeared six days after he saw England play against Denmark, thanks to Entain, and less than a month after BGC took him to Ascot, visits worth a total of £ 4,857.

There is no indication that any of the trio broke parliamentary rules. But their actions have raised concerns about the gambling industry’s apparent attempts to win the favor of politicians and the system that allows it.

The gambling sector’s charm offensive comes in the wake of the publication of a white paper on gambling reform, which is expected at the beginning of next year and which can significantly slow down the profitability of bookmakers and online casinos.

One peer described the industry’s charm offensive as a “pretty obvious” attempt to influence the outcome of the reforms.

By far the biggest benefit of the gaming industry’s large scale in the past year was Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley. The Guardian revealed last year that he had accepted almost £ 50,000 to advise Ladbrokes owner Entain on safer gambling and customer service.

Davies has previously said that his work outside parliament is “a matter for me”, although in 2010 he did not show the same indulgence towards firefighters with other jobs who opposed changes in their shift pattern. The firefighters, he said, “should start living in the real world at a time when many people are grateful to be hanging on to their one job”.

In addition to his work for Entain, who employed two of his former political aides in leadership roles at the time he took the job, Davies accepted hospitality worth a total of £ 8,695 from the firm, other betting firms Flutter and Gamesys and the Betting & Gambling Council.

In addition to what Davies paid, Entain spent almost £ 41,000 on hospitality for 13 MPs over the summer.

BGC spent half that sum, £ 20,405, on escorting legislators to events, including three England matches at Euro 2020, horse racing at Ascot, cricket at the Lord’s and Ivor Novello awards.

Of the 13 lawmakers who enjoyed the trade body’s hospitality, three spoke in support of the industry within days of being entertained, two of them – Benton and Spellar – in the House of Commons.

During the same debate, Laurence Robertson – a longtime proponent of the gambling industry – warned of the “great danger” of tighter regulation, supporting BGC’s view that it would drive people towards the black market.

As he has pointed out, he correctly declared his interest, a role of £ 24,000 a year in BGC, which advises on sports and safer gambling. He also took tickets worth £ 9,307 and hospitality at the Ascot, York and Sandown racetracks, Lord’s and England’s match against Denmark. The gifts came from BGC, SkyBet, Entain and Coral.

A total of 28 MPs have either been paid by the gaming industry or have accepted hospitality from the industry, with a total value of £ 224,281 since August 2020. All hospitality and salaries were declared to the register of members’ interests, in accordance with parliamentary rules.

Beneficiaries include Conservative MPs Caroline Dinenage, who is the Minister of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who oversees the game review, and Aaron Bell, who used to work for Bet365.

The BGC is headed by Michael Dugher, a former Labor MP.

Lord Foster of Bath, chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform, said it was “pretty obvious why the industry is giving parliamentarians more importance”, calling the overthrow of consultancy roles and free hospitality an attempt to “try to influence the outcome in favor” With millions of people affected by problem gambling and more than one gambling-related suicide every day, I suppose [they] will be on the wrong side of public opinion. “

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former assistant to Jeremy Corbyn and director of Clean Up Gambling, said: “Too many MPs have had their noses in the gambling trough. This is a sector that gets most of its profits from the damage it causes. their components. In its review of the game, the government has the opportunity to show that our democracy is not for sale. “

An Entain spokesman said: “Every political commitment we make is always in line with the records of members’ interests. As a sports betting and interactive entertainment company, we are proud of the role we play in supporting grassroots and elite sports in both the UK and the UK. internationally. “

A BGC spokesman said: “All hospitality is in line with parliamentary rules and is fully declared and transparent.”

Aaron Bell said: “I have declared all hospitality promptly and transparently in the register of members’ interests and have always complied with the Parliamentary Code of Conduct.”

The other MEPs did not respond to requests for comment.

Six top beneficiaries (salary and hospitality from casinos and bookmakers)

Philip Davies (Con): £ 58,675 (£ 8,695 hospitality, £ 49,980 salary)

Laurence Robertson (Con): £ 33,306.60 (£ 9,306.60 hospitality, £ 24,000 salary)

Scott Benton (Con): £ 7,495 (hospitality)

Nigel Adams (Con): £ 7,417.14 (hospitality)

Aaron Bell (Con): £ 6,955.60 (hospitality)

Esther McVey (Con): £ 6,094.60 (hospitality)

Leave a Comment