Two MPs in Conflict of Interest Row
As tensions rise ahead of the government’s upcoming review of the 2005 Gambling Act, it has been revealed that two MPS have accepted jobs within the gambling industry. MPs Laurence Robertson and Philip Davies have both taken advisory roles. This has been met with criticism from MPs who say that the roles cause a clear conflict of interest.
Paid Advisory Roles
Both Conservative MPs are involved in the long-awaited review of the Gambling Act, which arises from one of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign pledges. The advisory roles involve contributing advice on responsible gambling and customer service, and are lucrative for both for MPs. The MPs roles were revealed by parliamentary disclosure.
MP Philip Davies was paid £49,980 by GVC for a consultation role, in which he recommended on responsible gambling and customer service standards. Davies did not step down from his position on the select committee for digital, culture, media and sport until this week, despite receiving his first payment on August 27th. It is the DCMS that is responsible for managing the impending review of the UK’s gambling legislation.
Davies, whose constituency is Shipley in West Yorkshire, has completed 124 hours worth of work for GVC, which operates through well-known brands such as Ladbrokes, Coral, bwin and Sportingbet. For that work he was paid £403 per hour, 68 times the 2011 minimum wage of £5.93, which he controversially claimed was more than employers should have to pay disabled people.
Laurence Robertson, who is MP for Tewkesbury, accepted a role working with the Betting and Gaming Council, the UK’s gambling industry trade body. His role as parliamentary advisor on sport and safer gambling began on October 1st. The role will pay him £2,000 for ten hours each month, which adds up to an annual sum of £24,000.
Robertson has said that his role with the BGC will not influence his input in the gambling review, nor will he advocate on behalf of the gambling industry. However, both Robertson and Davies have faced criticism before over hospitality gifts and donations worth thousands of pounds that they received from gambling firms. Robertson received special badge entry for exclusive race meetings and hospitality donations from William Hill, The Jockey Club and the BGC.
Davies received box tickets for the Cheltenham festival, which was one of the last sporting events to take place before the coronavirus lockdown. MPs have criticized Robertson and Davies over their involvement with the gambling industry, claiming a conflict of interest over upcoming legislative changes. Their acceptance of donations and paid work within the industry has damaged their credibility in providing fair and unbiased feedback in the review.
Robertson and Davies are not the first MPs to show an interest in the gambling industry though. Former deputy leader of the Labour party, Tom Watson, shocked many earlier this year when he took a job with Flutter Entertainment. In his days as a politician Watson called for urgent and far-reaching reforms in the gambling industry. In joining the world’s largest betting and gaming conglomerate, Watson hopes to change the industry from the inside.
Critics have called Watson a hypocrite for taking the highly paid position. However, he is free to do so, as he is no longer a sitting MP. The chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council himself was once a Labour MP. Michael Dugher held a number of prominent shadow cabinet roles and served as MP for Barnsley East. As Davies and Robertson are both still in government, their position is less justifiable.
A spokesman for GVC has explained that it does not employ Davies any more. GVC added further that the MP offered useful insight into safer gambling and issues affecting the industry. However, as GVC, which is soon to rebrand itself as Entain, is now under new management, it decided to end the contract. The BGC also offered a similar explanation of its involvement with Robertson, stating that it had adhered to all protocols.
Labour MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris, has been a prominent voice on the need for gambling reform. She says that Robertson and Davies have already shown a conflict of interest and out of all MPs who have been involved in legislation discussions, they spoke out the most in support of the industry.
Davies has been accused of lobbying for the gambling industry before. In 2013 he was investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after complaints stated that he had received over £10,000 from companies linked with gambling, of which a portion was not fully registered. Similar claims have been repeated since, such as favorable treatment from Ladbrokes.
In 2018, Tracey Crouch left her job as sports minister after it was alleged that Davies went over her head in delaying the stake cap on fixed-odds betting terminals. That legislation was spearheaded by Carolyn Harris and the Gambling Related Harm APPG. The same year, Davies received more than £3000 in hospitality from betting companies.