The MPs with the closest links to the betting and gaming industry, both professional and otherwise, are available to view via a new portal on the Sky News website.
Added onto the site over the weekend, the ‘Westminster Accounts’, produced by Sky News and Tortoise Media, allows users to look up any current MP to find out what financial interests they have declared since 19 December 2019, covering a range of sectors.
Financial interests include ‘donations’, which the outlet stated are ‘often – but not always – cash’; earnings from other areas of employment, and finally ‘gifts and other benefits’ – this could be hospitality tickets to sports events, such as matches at the Euros last year, for example.
Committees and former Ministers
With the Gambling Act review having been underway since December 2020, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm’s (APPG GRH) activity has been of great significance to the UK industry.
As it stands, the committee has had only one major financial backer, Derek Webb, Founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, who donated a total of £120,000 to support the group’s operations and investigations.
Meanwhile, only one individual MP from the parliamentary group received a donation from a betting and gaming stakeholder, that being Mark Hendrick of the Labour Party, who received £1,470 in gifts and benefits from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).
The BGC has maintained extensive political links outside of the APPG GRH, however, contributing £132,000 over the past 24 months to 41 MPs – £75,000 in gifts and benefits went to 39 MPs, whilst the remaining two received £57,740 in earnings.
The two MPs in question were Laurence Robertson and John Whittingdale at £51,000 and £6,000 respectively, the latter of whom also received £4,960 in gifts from the trade body, and between 14 February 2020–16 September 2021 was Minister of State for Media and Data at the DCMS.
Apart from Whittingdale, only one other MP with experience at DCMS during the course of the Gambling Act came up in the search engine, that being Damien Collins, who received £1,500 from Gamesys Group, and served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and the Digital Economy (‘Gambling Minister’) from 8 July 2022-27 October 2022.
A recurring name on the portal with regards to gambling was Robertson, who was one of the MPs to have received the most in gifts and benefits from UK betting and gaming, totaling £71,110.
As well as aforementioned the gifts, benefits and earnings from the BGC, he received gifts and benefits from Entain Operations, Entain Holdings, Sky Bet (listed by Sky News as Hestview), William Hill, Flutter Entertainment and SIS (Sports Information Services).
The only other MP to have declared earnings from betting and gaming was Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, with £49,000 from GVC Holdings – now Entain – along with gifts and donations from Entain Holdings, the BGC, Flutter and Gamesys.
Davies, along with fellow Conservative Esther McVey – who received £4,550 in gifts and benefits from Entain Holdings and £1,530 from Gamesys – faced criticism from their Liberal Democrat opponents last year for perceived closeness to the industry.
Additional MPs to have received two or more sums in gifts and benefits from betting stakeholders or companies were Scott Benton of the Conservatives, with £8,640 consisting of £2,560 from the BGC, £1,530 from Gamesys and $4,550 from Entain Operations.
Finally, Labour’s Alex Norris accepted £1,530 in gifts from Gamesys, £900 from the BGC and £700 from Sky Bet, and Mark Jenkinson of the Conservative Party received £3,450 and £3,410 in benefits from Entain Operations and, once again, the BGC.
Regarding companies, Entain/GVC Holdings led the pack, having contributed £99,130 to MPs, including the aforementioned £49,980 in earnings to Davies, whilst 13 MPs cited gifts or benefits from either Entain Operations or Holdings.
Entain Operations accounted for £28,750 to eight MPs, which were all worth £3,450 except for £4,550 in the case of Conservative MP for Blackpool South Scott Benton, followed by £20,400 for Entain Holdings.
Camelot UK was also a big hitter, totaling £63,130 to three MPs – Conservative representative for Aylesbury Rob Butler, declared £61,000 in earnings, whilst Labour’s Shadow DCMS Secretary Lucy Powell and MP Jeff Smith disclosed £1,070 and £900 in gifts and benefits, respectively.
Entain’s rival on the FTSE100 stock exchange, Flutter Entertainment, gave much less in gifts at £2,200 – £1,700 to Davies and £500 to Robertson – although contributions from Sky Bet reached £5,980, with £2,050 in gifts to Robertson and £3,930 among Caroline Nokes, Mark Spencer, Brendan Clarke-Smith, Toby Perkins and Alex Norris.
The last of the big donors was Gamesys, which gave £12,260 in gifts or benefits to seven MPs, the largest of which was the £3,070 in gifts to Sir Graham Brady, with the remaining six amounting to £1,530, including the three to Davies, McVey and Collins.
Smaller gifts and benefits were also disclosed by MPs from five operators and one supplier – Betfred gave £300 in gifts to Labour’s Louise Haigh, while William Hill plc and SIS (Sports Information Services) were two of Robertson’s gift givers at £1,600 and £700.
Although one of the leading companies globally, and with its owner being one of the UK’s biggest tax payers, bet365 Group did not splash out on hospitality for MPs, handing out just £500 in gifts and benefits to Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for the company’s home constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North.
Finally, Genting Casinos gave a gift worth £600 to Royston Smith of the Conservatives, and incoming National Lottery operator Allwyn was disclosed by Labour’s Wes Streeting as the supplier of £700 in gifts.