MPs Connected to the UK Betting and Gaming Industry
A new part of the Sky News website allows users to explore the UK Members of Parliament who have the closest ties with the betting and gaming industry in the country. Some of these relationships are professional, such as committees and commissions, and others are to do with their personal circumstances and involvement outside politics. The new feature, known as “Westminster Accounts”, was added to the Sky News website very recently and is a project in partnership with Tortoise Media.
Westminster Accounts allows users to search for any current MP and then shows the financial interests that MP has declared since 19/12/2019. Interests across a range of different areas are available, and include items such as “donations” (an explanation by Sky News shows that “donations” are often “cash donations” but not always). Other entries include earnings from other employments, and “gifts and other benefits” which could mean hospitality tickets for sports games.
One of the most important ways through which MPs are linked with the UK betting and gaming industry is through different committees and groups. The biggest political event in the gambling world in recent years has been the review of the Gambling Act. The review started in 2020 and is still ongoing. One of the most important entities involved has been the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (APPG GRH). The group has had only one major financial donation which was from the founder of Campaign for Fairer Gambling Derek Webb, who backed the group’s work, operations, and investigations with £120,000.
The Westminster Accounts feature shows that only one MP involved in APPG GRH has received a donation from a betting / gaming entity, and that was Labour’s Mark Hendrick, who was the recipient of £1,470 in “gifts and benefits” from BGC – the Betting and Gaming Council. The BGC has other connections in parliament who are not involved in APPG GRH, and the website shows that in the past 2 years it has contributed £132,000 to these connections in total. £75,000 of this was in gifts / benefits to 39 different MPs. The full list can be explored by going to the website and searching for BGC under “Source of £”.
The other £57,000 went for earnings by two MPs – Laurence Robertson earned £51,000, and John Whittingdale earned £6,000. Whittingdale also features with gifts from BGC amounting to £4,960. Between 14/02/2020 and 16/09/2021, Whittingdale held the position of Minister of State for Media and Data at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). Another MP, Damian Collins, who worked at DCMS as “Gambling Minister” (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and the Digital Economy) between 08/07/2022 and 27/10/2022, has recorded £1,500 received in gifts from Gamesys Group, a UK-based online software development and gaming business part of the Bally Corporation.
Laurence Robertson has declared other instances of financial interest linked to the UK betting and gaming industry. His financial interests and earnings amount to £71,110, and include gifts and benefits from Entain, Sky Bet, William Hill, Flutter Entertainment, and Sports Information Services.
In terms of earnings from betting and gaming, only one MP features on the portal, and that is Conservative Philip Davies who has declared £49,000 from GVC Holdings, which is now Entain. Davies has also declared gifts and donations from BGC, Entain, Gamesys, and Flutter Entertainment.
Entain are recorded as contributing a total of £99,130 to 14 MPs (including the above £49,000 to Davies). Another company with a lot of recorded contributions is Camelot UK – the UK National Lottery Operator. According to the portal, Conservative MP Rob Butler received £61,000 in earnings. Meanwhile, Labour’s DCMS Shadow Secretary Lucy Powell received £1,070 in gifts and benefits, and Jeff Smith received £900.
Flutter Entertainment is also on the portal with £2,200 split between Philip Davies (£1,700) and Laurence Robertson (£500). Sky Bet provided £2,050 in gifts to Robertson, and £3,930 to 5 other MPs. On the portal, Sky Bet is recorded as Hestview. Other companies listed on the portal include Gamesys (£12,260 to seven MPs), Betfred (£300 to one MP), William Hill (£1,600 to one MP), Sports Information Services (£700 to one MP), Genting Casinos (£600 to one MP), and Allwyn (£700 to one MP).
Interestingly, bet365 did not spend a lot on hospitality and gifts for MPs and feature on the portal with a singular entry of £500 spent in gifts and benefits to their local Stoke-on-Trent MP Jonathan Gullis.
The new portal is very interactive and user-friendly, and users can search by Party, MP, APPG, or Source of £. Once in an entry, users can click on different links and buttons to explore the links between different individuals and entities. The system also features a helpful explanation of the functions and how to read the results. While MPs accounts are supposed to be transparent and made public, the way they have been “programmatically collected and analysed”, and then present in the portal makes it a lot easier for people to look up information and find out their local MPs declared interests, donations, and gifts.