Freebies Galore for MPs

The latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests has revealed some interesting links with the UK gambling industries. As the review of the 2005 Gambling Act continues, should MPs be accepting invites from gambling companies to attend sports events?

John Spellar is the Labour MP for Warley and last year received tickets for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and a cricket match. The value of those tickets was £2,800 and it was Power Leisure bookmakers who gave them to him.

Also receiving an invite was the Conservative MP for Dudley South, Mike Wood. The Betting and Gaming Council invited him to a Chelsea Premier League fixture that would have cost him £430. Perhaps the next article should be on controls on the cost of attending football games!

He says that receiving the gift won’t influence his decision when it comes to voting on gambling legislation. “Watching half a match at Chelsea really doesn’t change my views on gambling in sport,” said the MP. His view on gambling is that it is “important to have strong controls in place.”

There are many areas of the gambling industry that the review is looking at. Sponsorship is one of those, particularly gambling companies having their names on the shirts of football teams, particularly in the Premier League.

One opponent of such sponsorship is the former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. He’s concerned over children and teenagers seeing the sponsorship and being attracted to gambling. With betting firms worried over what the government has in store for them, they have been accused of leading a “charm offensive” on MPs and the giving of invites to sports events is one method being employed.

The newly released records show that there were over 35 MPs who received free gifts from the gambling industry. These were worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Another MP who enjoyed a freebie is Kevin Brennan, the Labour politician who currently holds the constituency of Cardiff West. He accepted a free ticket from the Betting and Gaming Council to attend a Wales v England Six Nations rugby match. Add on the hospitality and the freebie would otherwise have cost him £1,115.

He took the freebie despite the fact he has campaigned against gambling and the damage that it can cause people.

The problem of accepting freebies from betting companies has also been seen in Ireland, who are also looking at ways to reform gambling laws. It’s ok for politicians to attend such events but does the links with the gambling industry at a time when the reviews are ongoing?