Gambling Firms Gave UK Politicians More Than £200,000 in Salaries and Gifts in the Past Year

Business Man Offering GiftYou may recall in the summer I named and shamed the MPs that had blagged free tickets to England’s Euro 2020 games – despite the fact that the humble fan could not get near Wembley Stadium for love nor money until the later rounds.

The pick of the bunch was the MP for Blackpool South, Scott Benton, who helped himself to £8,000 in freebies at Euro 2020, Wimbledon and Royal Ascot in what must have been a very cushty few weeks for him in and around the capital.

Also confirmed in the hall of shame were Esther McVey, Ben Bradley and Graham Stuart, who enjoyed nice days out at the football courtesy of their chums in the gambling sector.

You might have thought that was as bad as it might get for politicians accepting a ‘gift’ or two from the industry – why the betting firms were so willing to part with the cash, we can only guess (winky emoji) – but it turns out that the summer of freebies was just the tip of the iceberg.

An audit into MPs expenses and earnings has revealed the full extent of the problem….particularly when framed against the backdrop of looming regulatory change.

Friends in High Places

men in suits hugging

We’ve all got better things to do all day than discuss Scott Benton, and I’ve no doubt he’s a lovely chap.

But is it a coincidence that he took his seat at Wembley Stadium for the England vs Denmark game at the Euros – a £3,457 seat no less – just four hours after warning Parliament that the Gambling Act review should not be compromised by anti-gambling sentiment?

“Many people will be concerned about some of the Gambling Commission’s proposals on affordability, and the extent to which they could drive people into the arms of black-market operators,” he told the Commons, while perhaps daydreaming of which pie filling he would have at half time.

Benton is not alone in his hubris. At the same ministerial meeting, Labour’s John Spellar stood up to outline his hopes that the UK would one day be considered a popular casino destination to rival Las Vegas. Why such enthusiasm? Does Spellar enjoy a turn at the blackjack table? Is he an avid penny slots enthusiast? Or was it because he was a guest of honour at the England vs Germany game, courtesy of his associates at the Flutter group?

And to complete the hat-trick, let’s consider the sheer coincidence that Mark Jenkinson MP revealed his grave concerns about the introducing of deposit limits at UK betting sites….less than three weeks after he’d been treated to England vs Denmark tickets – thanks to Entain – and a day of hospitality at Royal Ascot, courtesy of the Betting & Gaming Council. Total cost? A cool £4,857.

The list, it should be said, goes on. The audit found that 28 MPs – 19 of them Tories, nine Labour – had enjoyed days out and other perks courtesy of their friends in the betting sector since August 2020. A quick tot up revealed that the total sum ‘earned’ was a frankly ludicrous £225,000.

Disclaimer alert: there is no suggestion that any of our elected representatives broke parliamentary rules, and in truth they fit rather nicely into the current narrative of political sleaze and corruption.

Gravy Train Runs Out of Granules

You know the situation is dire when even politicians are suggesting that corruption has gotten out of hand.

Boris Johnson has moved to try and crack down on the sleaze of second jobs and private earnings by drawing up an amendment to the law that would prohibit second jobs for MPs.

It all comes, of course, in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal, the former MP who trousered a handsome paycheque for lobbying to fellow politicians on behalf of Randox – the firm that sponsors the Grand National.

The Prime Minister, who you may recall publicly defended Paterson, has now performed one of his miraculous u-turns, confirming that Paterson has broken parliamentary rules when his paid consultancy work went rather beyond that remit.

Will it bring about an end to sleaze and corruption in government? Only time will tell, but you suspect the days of jolly boys (and girls) outings to the hottest sporting tickets in town might become a thing of the past.