Gambling and Sports Firms Biggest Donors to UK MPs

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Gambling and Sports Firms Biggest Donors to UK MPs

The UK requires Member of Parliament (MP) to declare any benefits, gift or hospitality that have a value of more than £300, with a list of these donations released for public viewing each year. The latest report, however, has raised a few eyebrows after it was revealed that from the 187 donations that were registered by MPs last year, 58 of them came from the world of sports, and a further 19 donated by betting companies.

Ladbrokes Major Donor

The Ladbrokes Coral group showed up 15 times in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, a number far greater than that of any other donor. This included a range of benefits which included the Community Shield at Wembley, the Doncaster and Cheltenham races, trips to Ascot, and the Conservative Party conference. The total does not, of course, mention any of the hospitality or gifts that were under £300.

Nevertheless, the Ladbrokes Coral group has asserted that it wanted to take the MPs to many of the various venues and events in order that they may make better decisions related to the gambling industry from a position of  understanding. As a Ladbrokes Coral spokesperson said in defense of his company’s actions:

“We employ over 25,000 people, we have a high street presence in nearly every constituency in the land and pay UK taxes of circa £55m per annum. Of course we engage with politicians, we want to make sure that when decisions are taken that affect our 25,000 people, they are done from a position of knowledge.”

Unfair Lobbying

Campaigners promoting stricter rules on gambling in the UK, on the other hand, have raised concerns over bias, and their belief that companies have been unfairly using hospitality and other benefits in order to lobby MPs to keep the rules related to gambling firmly in their favor. One such area, for instance, relates to fixed odds betting terminals, which are machines based in high street bookies which allow punters to wager up to £100 a spin. Those worried about the high cost of these FOBTs, and their potential to make vulnerable people lose a lot of money very quickly, have been calling out for the maximum amount of money to be bet on these FOBTs reduced to just £2.

According to Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, the Ladbrokes Coral group has been making its donation decision to MPs out of a sense of desperation, with Zarb-Cousin also stating that Ladbrokes will put as much money into keeping FOBT spending limits unchanged in order to protect its interests going forward.

Politicians Speak Out

Speaking out in favor of the latest report, Tewkesbury MP Mr Robertson said that the situation was not unusual and that many companies representing different industries use hospitality to lobby MPs on a daily basis, including charities. For his ow part, Robertson explained that he is the joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Racing and Bloodstock, and as such has a duty of responsibility in this area. Elaborating further, Robertson said:

“Similar to most countries in the world, UK horse racing is very largely financially supported by bookmakers and there is a fear that curtailing their income by reducing the stakes on FOBTs could cause many shops to close which would, in turn, lead to a dramatic reduction in the funding of horse racing, which, contrary to popular belief, is a very poorly funded sport in the first place.”

Other Donors

While the Ladbrokes Coral group making a large number of donations may be a cause for concern, it was not the largest donor when it came to monetary amounts, and instead appeared in 7th place overall. Heading the list was the Road Haulage Association, which funded a researcher based in the office of Dover MP Charlie Elphicke to the tune of £22,577. According to Mr Elphicke, the interests of both groups is strongly aligned, with the research currently being carried out important for devising a way his constituency and the haulage industry as a whole could be prepared for the many challenges arising post-Brexit.

Other companies which also appeared high up on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests for 2016 includes the Essex Research Association, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Lord Wolfson, Channel 4, and ITV plc.

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