June 28, 2024 4 min read


Fact-checked by Velimir Velichkov

Election Gambling Scandal: Labour Shares Tory’s Alleged Gambling Problem

UK’s gambling lobby’s influence on the Labour Party reflected through close ties and donations might affect its view on the White Paper

Earlier in the week, the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced it was investigating Labour Party’s Kevin Craig for allegedly placing a bet against himself.

This brought his suspension from the party and prompted them to return the £100,000 ($126,000) that Craig had donated.

The news broke amid what appears to be a never-ending gambling scandal involving a large number of Tories and Conservative politicians, staffers, police officers, and even Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s bodyguard who allegedly leveraged insider information to place wagers on the possible date of the upcoming general election

PM Sunak announced an internal inquiry into the election date betting, reassuring the public that his party will ”act on any relevant findings or information” while denying having placed any bets himself. 

Neither Tories nor Labour members seem to be guiltless in the scandal that originally started with lots of Tory names made public by the UKGC.

Donations and Ties with Industry Groups 

While Labour’s June manifesto expressed the party’s commitment to “reducing gambling-related harm,” in light of the new revelations regarding the betting scandals involving politicians, many questions have popped up about the way the party will go about the legislation if it reaches the office.

Four years ago in February, while the race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party was warming up, Keir Starmer’s office received a £25,000 ($31,000) donation from Peter Coates, Bet365’s chairman.

Coates and the group had made regular donations of roughly £490,000 ($619,000) to Labour until 2015

Between 2015 and 2020 when Corbyn took the lead, the donations stopped coming in as the group redirected its attention (and £512,500/$647,000) to a campaign aimed at stopping Brexit.

According to data from the Electoral Commission, all 12 most recent political donations made by the gambling industry have reached Labour

The records speak about a total of close to £400,000 stretching back to March 2020

When the date of the election was set, the Tory government was already busy tackling the much-anticipated white paper on gambling regulation.

Now, the white paper is expected to reach the hands of what is anticipated to be a Labour government. Accordingly, questions arise over which party is actually dealing with a gambling problem.

“The Stage Is Set” for a Proper Public Health Approach 

While the “stage is set for a proper public health approach to gambling policy,” according to gambling reform activist and ex-spokesperson for Corbyn Matt Zarb-Cousin, the gambling lobby’s “influence“ could prevent Labour from “going much further than the Tories” on the matter. 

The task will most likely be embraced by shadow gambling minister Stephanie Peacock in the context of her predecessor, Michael Dugher, currently occupying the position of chair of the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC), the industry’s lobby group.

Dugher and Peacock seem to be close as they are frequently seen congratulating one another on their political and personal achievements on their social media pages.

The BGC has also appointed former Labour MP Anna Turley as its sports consultant. Its director of corporate affairs, Gary Follis, is an adviser to former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls

Dugher is also close to friend and former colleague and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, a supporter of more stringent regulation who became Paddy Power’s advisor when he exited politics. 

In the past, Watson had called the company “dirty” and “money-grabbing” after it offered odds on Oscar Pistorius’s trial

Betfred’s Done brothers donated £375,000 ($474,000) to the Tories between 2016 and 2017.

However, it would seem that most donations have reached Labour. 

From 2015 onward, Labour MPs have received close to £30,000 ($40,000) from Red Capital Ltd, a company owned by Jonathan Mendelsohn, the chair of Evoke Holdings which owns the William Hill, Mr Green, and 888.

Ex-chief executive of Leeds-based Sky Betting & Gaming, Richard Flint, donated £25,000 ($31,000) to Labour in 2021, plus another £10,000 ($12,600) to shadow chancellor and candidate for Leeds West Rachel Reeves. 

Reeves also accepted £10,000 in donations from Neil Goulden, Gamesys director and owner of Virgin Games and Rainbow Riches Casino.

These links have tended to stay under the radar, mostly due to the Tories’ attitude toward the industry.

All in all, on top of everything else, the large number of gambling ads in the UK is still an open topic of discussion that campaigners say has been skipped from the white paper. 

Some observers remain cautious of the Labour’s manifesto pledge, its tone, and what it could mean for these unresolved regulatory issues.

After finishing her master's in publishing and writing, Melanie began her career as an online editor for a large gaming blog and has now transitioned over towards the iGaming industry. She helps to ensure that our news pieces are written to the highest standard possible under the guidance of senior management.

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