Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby’s campaign to influence the government’s gambling white paper

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Gambling companies and industry groups have sat down with ministers almost once a month on average since 2020

Lobbyists, bookmakers and betting firms have put vast resources into a wide-ranging campaign aimed at influencing the outcome of a broad review into gambling legislation which is expected to be published later today.

The long awaited gambling white paper has been the subject of fierce lobbying efforts, amid concerns in the industry that measures which anti-gambling campaigners argue could help tackle gambling addiction and limit associated harms will have a detrimental impact on their returns.

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MPs including prominent ministers and shadow frontbenchers have received tickets and lavish hospitality to the Brits, the Euro 2020 finals, Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Wimbledon, Twickenham and almost every other major sporting event, plus an Ed Sheeran concert, with a total value of almost £200,000.

Gambling companies and the main industry lobbying organisation have secured more meetings with government than the official regulatory body in the run up to the publication of the long-awaited review - sitting down with ministers almost once a month over three years.

The industry has recruited former MPs and people with political connections, and enlisted the support of influential Westminster consultant lobbyists, aimed at fostering links with both major parties.

It comes as Scott Benton, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Betting and Gaming, has had the Conservative whip withdrawn. An undercover investigation by The Times revealed that he had appeared to offer to lobby government, in an apparent breach of the MPs code of conduct, for what he believed to be an investment firm interested in the gambling industry.

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Scott Benton has had the whip suspended for appearing to offer to lobby for the gambling industry. Credit: Mark Hall/ParliamentScott Benton has had the whip suspended for appearing to offer to lobby for the gambling industry. Credit: Mark Hall/Parliament
Scott Benton has had the whip suspended for appearing to offer to lobby for the gambling industry. Credit: Mark Hall/Parliament

A meeting almost every month

Since January 2020, gambling organisations including the Betting and Gaming Council, an industry representative organisation, have secured more meetings with government ministers than the Gambling Commission, the official independent regulatory body.

Between January 2020 and December 2022, gambling industry representatives met with ministers on average almost once a month.

The BGC has been involved with at least 26 different meetings since January 2020, involving 10 different ministers across four government departments. Nine of these were just between the minister and BGC while the rest also involved others, such as betting companies, other industry associations. Gambling firms including Entain, Gamesys and Flutter have all secured one-on-one meetings with ministers.


The Gambling Commission has been involved in 25 meetings with ministers over the same period. Some of these were one-on-one meetings, although some were industry roundtables alongside the BGC and gambling companies.

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Since the review into gambling legislation was launched in December 2020, there have been several different ministers with responsibility for the white paper within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, (formerly the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport).

Since February, Lucy Frazer has headed up the department, after it was split up by Rishi Sunak, losing the Digital aspect of its brief. Stuart Andrew is the junior minister with responsibility for gambling policy. It is not clear how many meetings Frazer and Andrew have held in relation to the review, as the government is yet to release details of ministerial meetings for the first quarter of this year.

Lucy Frazer has been appointed Culture Secretary. (Credit: Parliament)Lucy Frazer has been appointed Culture Secretary. (Credit: Parliament)
Lucy Frazer has been appointed Culture Secretary. (Credit: Parliament)

Between January 2020 and December 2022, the BGC has been involved with meetings with two secretaries of state at the department, Michelle Donelan and Oliver Dowden, and six different junior ministers.

The group also met with ministers at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; what was then the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and a Cabinet Office minister in charge of the Number 10 Policy Unit.

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Andrew Griffith had a one-on-one meeting with the BGC in April 2022, when he was in charge of Boris Johnson’s policy unit. Campaigners had raised concerns about Griffith’s involvement with the review, given his previous work with Sky, which has the Sky Betting and Gaming brand, where Griffith was a chief financial officer for several years before entering Parliament.

‘Second jobs’

A small number of MPs have also taken on ‘second jobs’ with gambling companies or the BGC, earning more than £115,000 between them in recent years.

Laurence Robertson, also the recipient of more hospitality from the industry than any other MP, has been employed as a “Parliamentary adviser” to the BGC since October 2020, according to the Register of Members’ Interests, earning £24,000 per year for a commitment of ten hours per month.

NationalWorld recently reported that Robertson was still working in the same role at the BGC, despite a ban on MPs working as Parliamentary advisers which came into force on 1 March. Robertson denied he provides Parliamentary advice. The Tory MP was also a member of the Betting and Gaming APPG until July 2021. Cheltenham racecourse is within his Tewkesbury constituency.

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Philip Davies, a member of the Betting and Gaming APPG since 2015, was employed by the company now known as Entain, which owns a number of major betting brands including Coral and Ladbrokes.

He was paid almost £50,000 for around 120 hours work during 2020, working as an adviser of safer gambling and customer service.

Former culture secretary and DCMS committee member John Whittingdale was paid £6,000 in January 2022 for a speech to the BGC annual dinner. He had served as a junior minister at DCMS from February 2020 to September 2021, meeting with the BGC and others in the industry on seven occasions.

Almost £200,000 worth of tickets

Since January 2020, MPs from both major parties have received hospitality to a wide range of exclusive sporting, media and entertainment events courtesy of industry lobbyists and companies within or with close links to the gambling sector. There are 51 MPs who have declared hospitality of this kind since January 2020.

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In total, MPs have received £199,731.84 worth of tickets and hospitality since January 2020. Last month alone, with the gambling white paper expected to be published at any moment, MPs registered more than £12,000 worth of tickets.


Scott Benton, the Betting and Gaming APPG chair exposed by The Times as seemingly offering to breach parliamentary lobbying rules, told undercover reporters that companies will provide hospitality to MPs which is falsely valued at just below the registration threshold of £300, suggesting the true extent of hospitality provided to MPs is even higher.

The BGC has spent the most, at more than £85,000, followed by Entain, almost £50,000, and Power Leisure Bookmakers, at almost £16,000.

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While some of those who’ve received tickets are backbench MPs with an interest in the sector, others are more influential and may have been targeted specifically for this reason.

Several senior Conservatives have benefited, including 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady, defence secretary Ben Wallace, and then-DWP secretary Therese Coffey.

Conservative MPs have benefited significantly more from hospitality over the entire period, with four of the top five MPs who’ve accepted the most tickets being Conservatives - these include Roberston and Davies. These five MPs alone have accepted almost £73,000 worth of hospitality, more than a third of the total.

However, the proportion of Labour MPs accepting hospitality has increased each year, suggesting a growing feeling that the party is likely to win the next election.

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The most senior Labour figure to receive tickets is shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who was given tickets to an unspecified musical performance in February, but Alex-Davies Jones, Labour’s shadow DCMS minister has also declared a ticket to the Ivor Awards in September 2021. Both were provided by the BGC.

Michael Dugher is chief executive of The Betting and Gaming Council which represents online betting and gaming, betting shops and casinos.Michael Dugher is chief executive of The Betting and Gaming Council which represents online betting and gaming, betting shops and casinos.
Michael Dugher is chief executive of The Betting and Gaming Council which represents online betting and gaming, betting shops and casinos.

Links to industry

The gambling industry has close ties to both Labour and the Conservatives, with campaigners highlighting a ‘revolving door’ between lobbyists and Westminster.

The current chair of the BGC is former Labour MP Michael Dugher, while another senior executive at the organisation, Gary Follis, was a senior adviser to former Labour minister and shadow chancellor Ed Balls. At last year’s Labour conference, one of the main social events, a party hosted by the Daily Mirror, was sponsored by the BGC.

During the 2020 Labour leadership election, Keir Starmer’s campaign was in part funded by a founder of the betting company Bet365, Peter Coates. The £25,000 donation was not declared until after the contest had concluded, in a move which some of Starmer’s critics suggested may have been an intentional move to avoid criticism.

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The Conservative Party also has a number of ties to the industry. Betting and Gaming APPG member Aaron Bell, who was given tickets to three matches at the Euros worth almost £7,000, is a former employee of Bet365.

During a March 2022 Westminster Hall debate on gambling-related harm, Bell was accused by the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan of reading comments directly from a briefing note provided by his former employer. Cowan congratulated Bell for “reading [his] Bet365 briefing so beautifully".

Boris Johnson was prime minister throughout most of the period when the review has been carried out. As well as Griffiths, two central figures in his administration had or now have worked in the industry. David Canzini, who Johnson drafted in as his deputy chief of staff for around two years, had previously worked at lobbyist CT Group, which represented Ladbrokes. Johnson’s head of communications, Jack Doyle, left Downing Street to join Headland Consultancy, which represents William Hill.

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