A recent analysis by the Guardian has revealed that gambling companies and lobbyists have increased their spending on MPs tenfold within five years, raising concerns about the industry’s political power. As the government prepares to publish its new gambling white paper, the close relationship between politicians and the industry is under scrutiny.
Gambling Industry’s Hospitality Impacting Westminster
Dozens of Labour and Conservative MPs have reportedly received thousands of pounds’ worth of corporate hospitality from major betting companies in the UK. The industry’s spending on sports tickets for MPs has risen significantly, and some believe this has given gambling companies too much political influence.
According to Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, the industry uses their deep pockets to gain favour among politicians. Harris says, “They do this because they’re terrified of regulation. They want to protect what they have.”
Scott Benton, Conservative MP for Blackpool South, was captured in an undercover video offering “easy access” to ministers for £4,000 from a fake gambling company. Benton has referred himself to the parliamentary standards commissioner and been suspended from the parliamentary Conservative party. The Guardian’s analysis shows that Benton is among several MPs who have accepted significant corporate hospitality from the industry.
BGC’s Increasing Spending Raises Eyebrows
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has taken on the responsibility of spending on MPs in recent years, becoming a powerful voice in the government’s gambling review. The BGC’s main voice in parliament, Laurence Robertson, is paid £2,000 a month as its parliamentary adviser on sport and safer gambling. A BGC spokesperson defended the organization’s engagement with MPs, stating that it is vital during the ongoing government review into gambling regulation.
Gambling Review’s Potential Recommendations
The gambling review, according to a report in The Sun, is likely to recommend a maximum limit on how much gamblers can spend on each online slot machine turn. The BGC has pushed for a narrower definition of “gambling harm” throughout the review process, arguing that the current debate has resulted in misinformation about gambling-related harm prevalence.