the News desk.
|Gambling firms charmed MPs ahead of betting review in
| Bookmakers and
horse racing firms quadrupled their efforts to entertain politicians,
parliamentary register reveals
firms staged a charm offensive during 2016, spending more money on adverts and
stepping up the hospitality they offer MPs, who are considering a regulatory
The industry has come under the spotlight amid concern about
its commitment to curbing problem gambling and fears about the influence that
daytime TV adverts have on children.
The increased scrutiny culminated
in a government review of betting firms social responsibility, including
controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), often dubbed the
crack cocaine of gambling for their addictive nature.
register of members interests, which details the value of gifts and
donations received by politicians, reveals that major bookmakers and horse
racing firms quadrupled their efforts to entertain MPs ahead of the
Politicians enjoyed the largesse of the gambling world on 33
separate occasions last year, accepting tickets worth thousands of pounds to
racing and football events.They accepted nearly £20,000 of hospitality,
including tickets to Ascot, the Derby and the Grand National.
biggest beneficiaries were Conservative MPs Laurence Robertson, and Philip
Davies, who was referred to the MPs ethics watchdog in 2013 over his
links to the gambling industry.
Davies accepted £4,720 of
hospitality from the gambling industry in 2016, while Robertson enjoyed
entertainment worth £5,166.
On their basic salary of
£74,962, it would take an MP nearly a month to earn enough to pay for
£5,166 of hospitality out of their own pocket.
recipients include former SNP leader Alec Salmond who was given a badge
worth up to £1,000 by the Racecourse Association permitting entry to
certain racecourses and secretary of state for international development
She was given two Grand National tickets worth £2,000
by Jockey Club Racecourses.
The amount spent on MPs during a year
in which the threat of increased regulation has loomed large was a major
increase on 2015, when gambling and racing firms hosted MPs just nine times, to
a total value of less than £5,000.
A spokesman for the Campaign
for Fairer Gambling, which campaigns for FOBT maximum stakes to be reduced from
£100 to £2, said: Those MPs who accept the
bookies free entertainment must surely realise what this is really about
and why all of a sudden they are splashing the cash on them.
are trying to garner what support they can for their £100-a-spin machines
and stave off what looks like an impending clampdown by the
Our campaign looks forward to finding out where the 33
MPs who have accepted hospitality stand on the issue of the bookies
Last month Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for
Swansea East, called for the maximum stake on FOBTs to be reduced in her
capacity as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs.
said: Interestingly Ive never been offered any hospitality, not
that I would expect to be.
There is no suggestion that any of the
named MPs have been unduly influenced in their decision making by gifts
The UKs booming gambling sector also continued to ramp
up its spending on TV adverts.
Excluding lotteries, gambling firms had
spent £94.4m on TV adverts by the end of October, according to data
analysis firm Nielsen, putting them on course to beat the£118.8m spent in
Including lotteries and spending in the print media and
billboards, betting firms had spent £211m by October, with figures for
the full year not due to be released until February.
The amount of
gambling advertising on TV has triggered concerns among politicians and
campaigners about the potential impact on children of daytime adverts for
gambling, which are permitted alongside sporting events.
industry also ramped up its lobbying efforts with the Back Your Local Bookie
campaign, launched by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
ABB tweeted about the campaign in mid-October, which coincided with the
Department of Culture, Media and Sport launching its call for evidence on
gaming machines and social responsibility.
The campaign website
includes an automated form that allows people to put their name to a letter to
their local MP, worded by the ABB.
It reads: Im tired of
how bookmakers are constantly misrepresented, and Im concerned about the
impact of any further regulation on bookies.
Betting shops are
closing at a rate of over 100 per year and with that local authorities are
losing yet another business rate paying retailer from their high streets. And
without bookies, our high streets will continue to suffer a decline in
The potential for further regulation will only hasten
these closures. My local bookie is a sociable, fun meeting place, with great
staff, and I want it to stay that way.