hp sauce

Bet on them!
Gambling, Issue 1579

snooker.jpg WITH publication of the government's gambling white paper delayed for a fourth time, it is still unclear whether it will include measures such as a mandatory charge on gambling firms to fund addiction services or football teams being banned from putting betting firm logos on their shirts. Over the past year, however, gambling firms have been doing their bit to ensure MPs don't get downhearted while they wait…

In April, Betfred paid £350 for Louise Haigh (Lab) to go to the World Championship Snooker final and provided Alex Davies-Jones (Lab) with a free bet (£250 was paid to her nominated charity).

Several tickets to Conservative MPs
A bigger hitter has been gambling firm Entain, which in July last year gifted several tickets to Conservative MPs Nigel Adams, Aaron Bell, Scott Benton, Graham Brady, Philip Davies, Mark Jenkinson, Esther McVey, Caroline Nokes, Laurence Robertson, Ben Wallace and Craig Whittaker, plus Labour's Pat McFadden, Toby Perkins and Jonathan Reynolds. The firm splashed a total of £45,057 on various sporting events.

Rivalling this was Power Leisure Bookmakers, which last year donated football tickets worth £1,961 each to Conservatives Adams (again), Stuart Andrew, Bell (again), Ben Bradley, Chris Heaton-Harris and Graham Stuart, plus Labour's John Spellar and Mark Tami.

The main gambling industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council, has also been on a spree, buying sports tickets and admission to other glossy events for two dozen MPs. Bell (again again) received £2,238 in February to go to the Brit Awards, and all in all the council dished out tickets worth about £36,000 to 24 members, spreading their bets between 13 Conservative and 11 Labour MPs. It paid former culture secretary John Whittingdale £6,000 for a speech to boot.

A horse-racing pass worth £1,000
Special mention must go to Tewkesbury's Conservative MP Robertson, who since 2020 has earned £2,000 per month working for the Betting and Gaming Council. He also received a horse-racing pass worth £1,000 from the Racecourse Association, £500 of Ascot tickets directly from Ascot in June last year, York racing tickets worth £1,000 from Sky Betting and Gaming last August, £600 worth of racing tickets for Doncaster Racecourse in September from racecourse owner Arena Racing Company, plus various other sport and event tickets from the council worth more than £10,000 in total.

Behind by a nose in the freebie stakes was Shipley's Conservative MP Philip Davies (Eye 1544), whose combined event and ticket donations from the Betting and Gaming Council, Normandie Stud, bingo firm Gamesys, Entain Holdings, Arena Racing, Flutter Entertainment and Star Sports totalled roughly £12,000.

Davies is vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on betting and gambling, as was Robertson until July last year. (Both men are also on the APPG for racing & bloodstock, while Robertson is on the APPG for horse welfare.) Readers can make up their own minds as to whether this justifies all the freebies – and whether MPs' scrutiny of the eventual white paper is likely to be more or less impartial amid the firms' largesse.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1579 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 24th August 2022
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