As records reveal, gambling companies have given a lot of money as donations to UK MPs and even hired two Members of Parliament as advisors just before historical changes are set to be made to UK’s Gambling Act. As the planned review of the Act is set to start, companies have been accused by campaigners of “befriending politicians” by providing them with tons of gifts.
MPs Receive Thousands of Dollars as Gambling Advisors
According to reports, All Party Parliamentary Group on Betting and Gaming’s former chair and current Tory MP for Tewkesbury, Laurence Robertson, was hired in October 2020 by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a highly influential organization.
He receives around $32,000 (£24,000) by working as a sport and safer gambling parliamentary advisor, as the register of interest suggests. What’s even more bizarre is the fact that according to the data, he works just 10 hours per month.
After he was employed by BGC, Robertson has spoken in Parliament on the new and stricter rules on gambling/betting in the UK by saying that they are too strict and are likely to give people no other option but to go on the black market. He’s also very vocal on gambling outside of Parliament as he regularly posts tweets in which it supports the gambling industry.
Moreover, Robertson was hired at the BGC at approximately the same time when Shipley’s MP, Phillip Davies, was hired by GVC Holdings. GVC is the company behind a well-known operator – Ladbrokes. According to data, Davies received around $21,000 (£13,000) by working as an advisor since October 2020. For the same job, he also received around $67,000 (£50,000).
Suspicious, But Don’t Necessarily Break the Rules
Even though there aren’t any suggestions that these MPs have broken Parliamentary rules, many consider their appointments to be a bit shady as they come in a period in which the Gambling Act is set to undergo significant changes.
The government intends to publish proposals at the start of 2022, and some reports state that one of the changes may include a ban on VIPs. A BGC member has met with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ministers to discuss the review of the Gambling Act.
Additionally, recent appointments coincided with betting companies flooding many MPs with hospitality and various donations. Many of these politicians received massive hospitality from the company behind Paddy Power – Power Leisure Bookmakers, as well as Entain and BGC by being provided with ticks to various events and sports games.
Campaigners believe that the reason why politicians have been flooded with donations is that the industry was expecting these changes and wanted to act on them. A spokesman for the Clean Up Gambling campaign, Matt Zarb-Cousin, stated that the massive amounts of money that the industry has spent on MPs shows that it is desperate to make friends in the Parliament and influence the ultimate decision.
However, he noted that by putting MPs on their payroll, they turn the gambling lobby into a safety net in the case of them losing a seat at the Parliament. As Zarb-Cousin states, this is an example of the murky door between lobbying and politics.
As for Robertson, he doesn’t see any wrongdoings in the article. He thinks that he’s keeping people off the black market and that is the right thing to do. Robertson also noted that he has the Cheltenham racecourse in his constituency and that it would be strange if he didn’t allude to the importance to racing “of the funding bookmaker’s pride” and as he says, that is 45% of the income of racing.
A BGC spokesman also said that Robertson is a massive advocate for changes in the betting industry. The spokesman also added that as a Conservative candidate in the previous election, Robertson had a manifesto tailored for reforming the Gambling Act with the purpose of providing people with a safer gambling experience. He ended that his appointment as an advisor is according to Parliamentary rules and is fully transparent.