UK: MPs raise concerns over advisors’ links to gambling industry
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related harm will write to prime minister Boris Johnson about the matter.
UK.- Anti-gambling MPs appear to be preparing their response on the back of reports that the UK’s overhaul of gambling legislation will be watered down. Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm have said they plan to write to Boris Johnson to voice concern about the gambling industry’s influence on Downing Street.
The group, led by Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith and Labour MP Carolyn Harris, will raise concerns about policy advisors with past links to the industry. They say they fear such advisors may be opposing tougher regulation.
Their concern comes after The Guardian newspaper reported that gambling operators had spent £280,000 on MPs, paying for trips to Wimbledon, Lord’s and the Euro 2020 football tournament plus fees for speaking engagements and second jobs. It highlighted cases of MPs speaking in parliament against gambling restrictions on the same day or soon after receiving hospitality from the industry.
Harris said: “It would be deeply concerning if unelected officials in No 10 with ties to gambling are now involved in making decisions about the contents of the government’s gambling white paper. Frankly, the people of this country deserve better and it would bring into question all the outcomes of this review that we have already waited far too long for.”
Proposed reforms to gambling legislation are believed to have now been drafted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The prime minister will then decide whether to adopt the proposals, which the government still says it will publish “in the coming weeks”.
One proposal known to be on the table is for the Premier League to adopt a voluntary ban on front-of-shirt sponsorship. Clubs will vote on whether they agree with the league’s proposal, but it’s not yet clear whether the government would definitely accept the compromise, which would let clubs continue to display gambling advertising elsewhere.
According to reports, the proposals will include a stake limit for online casinos and new affordability checks, but may not include a mandatory levy to fund treatment for gambling harm. According to The Guardian, several cabinet ministers along with Boris Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary, Andrew Griffith, and deputy chief of staff David Canzini, are unconvinced by the DCMS’s proposals, which could be what’s been holding things up for so long.
Griffith previously worked as chief financial officer of the Sky media group, which has a brand licensing deal with SkyBet. Sky sold a 20 per cent stake in the betting brand to Flutter while Griffith was at the company.
Meanwhile, Canzini has worked for the lobbying firm CT Group, which worked with Entain to create the gamblers’ advocacy group the Players’ Panel, whose launch caused controversy after members posted racist messages on Facebook.
The government has said that all of Griffith and Canzini’s interests were properly declared and that they had no financial interests in the gambling industry. It said Griffith had no links with Sky Group after leaving the company in July 2019.
Meanwhile The Guardian found 38 MPs received £280,000 in salaries, hospitality and fees for speaking engagements in the period before the review of gambling legislation. Earlier this year, Jonathan Gullis MP had to apologise for forgetting to declare tickets received for a football match before he read from a briefing written by Bet365 during a Westminster debate.
Other MPs to have received significant fees or hospitality from the sector include Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, Shipley MP Philip Davies, Blackpool South MP Scott Benton and former gambling minister John Whittingdale.
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