UK Gambling Operators Gave MPs £200,000+ in Wages and Freebies

  • 28 MPs have accepted freebies or wages from gambling operators since August 2020
  • Some of the MPs who received gifts spoke in parliament against stricter gambling regulation
  • The MPs often received money or tickets to sporting events for providing advice
  • Gambling reform advocates have raised concerns about links between operators and politicians
Cash handoff during handshake
UK MPs have received freebies and/or money worth over £200,000 ($268,444) from gambling operators since August 2020. [Image:]

Long list of politicians

UK gambling operators have given more than £200,000 ($268,444) worth of wages and gifts to MPs over the past 14 months. A report published on Monday by the Guardian outlined how 28 MPs have received money and/or accepted hospitality from operators since August 2020. Of the 28 MPs, 19 of them are Tories and nine of them are Labour Party MPs.

politicians declared a total of £224,281 ($301,034) worth of funds from gambling operators

In all, politicians declared a total of £224,281 ($301,034) worth of wages or gifts from gambling operators. There is absolutely no suggestion that any MPs who accepted money or hospitality from betting operators were breaking any sort of rules, but the Guardian report has led to concerns about the relationship that the gambling industry has with politicians.

Specific examples

One of the most high-profile politicians to accept funds from gambling operators was Tory MP Scott Benton. He had issued a warning in the House of Commons against restrictive gambling laws just a few hours before he went to one of the Euro 2020 soccer games last summer, courtesy of the UK gambling group Entain. This freebie was reportedly worth £3,457 ($4,761). He had stated that the review of gambling legislation should not be led by anti-gambling ideology and voiced concerns about the possible introduction of more extensive affordability checks.

Labour Party MP John Spellar has spoken in the House of Commons about trying to make Britain more attractive as a casino destination. He was a guest of Flutter Entertainment for the Euro 2020 match between England and Germany. Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson expressed his grave concerns in July regarding the government’s imposing of strict betting limits. The UK gambling industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), took the politician to Ascot a short time later.

The MP who benefited the most during this period was Conservative MP Philip Davies. He accepted nearly £50,000 ($67,111) in order to advise Entain on customer service and safer gambling practices. Davies also accepted hospitality from Flutter Entertainment, Gamesys, and the BGC during this time period.

The response to the report

In response to the release of the Guardian report, Clean Up Gambling director and previous aide to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Matt Zarb-Cousin, said: “Far too many MPs have had their snouts in the gambling trough.”

He spoke about how the gambling sector gets most of its profits from causing harm to constituents and that through its ongoing review of gambling legislation, the government has the ability to “demonstrate our democracy is not for sale.”

The publication of the government’s gambling reform white paper is expected to take place in early 2022. On the back of potential changes, this white paper could lead to a significant cut in profits for gambling operators.

Entain also commented on the publication of the report. A spokesperson for the group said: “Any political engagement we conduct is always in line with the registers of members’ interest.”

The spokesperson went on to note that Entain supports both elite and grassroots sports in the UK and abroad. Over the course of the summer, Entain spent nearly £41,000 ($55,031) on hospitality for 13 different MPs. The BGC spent about £20,405 ($27,388) during the same period.

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