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All-Party Parliamentary Group for Betting and Gaming

Several of the largest recipients of gifts and hospitality sat on the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for betting and gaming. Chaired by Scott Benton, the APPG has included Philip Davies and Laurence Robertson and regular recipients of hospitality Connor McGinn, John Spellar and former Bet365 employee Aaron Bell. Whilst all have individually spoken in parliament warning against greater gambling regulation, the APPG has also publicly warned against the dangers of greater regulation.


In 2022, they directly attacked the Gambling Commission, branding it an "under-performing regulator", and called on the Government to take it into "special measures". [13] The group stated that the commission's attempts to "significantly reduce the number of problem gamblers" risked the "destruction of one of the world's best gambling industry's (sic)". Despite previous reports from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office concluding that the commission was not tough enough, the APPG argued that it was "acting on the siren voices of prohibitionist activists and creating a black market that will destroy lives and the industry". [14] Branded "ludicrous" by campaigners for regulatory reform and leading to the resignation of Vice-chair Connor McGinn, who refused to be associated with the report, the APPG's report mirrors both the argument and language of industry lobby groups.


Concerns regarding external influence were central to the House of Commons review of APPGs published in April 2022. The report emphasised that APPGs "must not be seen as enabling outside interests to 'buy the logo' of parliament".[15] Citing concerns that "APPGs could represent the next great parliamentary scandal, with commercial entities effectively buying access to and influence of parliamentarians and decision-makers", the report suggested a number of possible reforms.[15] These included limitations on the role of external groups or individuals operating within or providing funds to APPGs.[15]


The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals APPG, made up of MPs committed to gambling reform, received significant funding from gambling companies interested in FOBTs. One of its biggest backers was Bacta, a lobby group for adult gaming centres, whilst the group also received funding from the Hippodrome Casino and pub chain JD Wetherspoon, whose venues are brimming with fruit machines.[6]


Similarly, the APPG for Betting and Gaming had an external Secretariat, Steve Donoughue, a self-styled "gambling consultant" listed as a staffer for Scott Benton.[3] The APPG ceased to exist after the publication of the gambling white paper. Of its former members, only Philip Davies has declared the receipt of hospitality from gambling interests since. Its closure was announced by Steve Donoughue on Linkedin, underlining the extent to which the gambling industry is interwoven amongst the parliamentarians who have provided the most vocal public criticism of greater gambling regulation.[16]


[2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/15/almost-225000-in-wages-and-freebies-taken-from-gambling-industry-by-28-mps

[3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.tortoisemedia.com/2023/01/11/westminster-accounts-gambling-industry/

[4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/apr/06/gambling-industry-increased-spending-on-mps-tenfold-in-five-years-data-shows

[5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/pcfs/not-upheld/mr-laurence-robertson-mp-not-upheld.pdf

[6] Davies R. Jackpot: How Gambling Conquered Britain. London: Guardian Faber; 2022.

[7] The Telegraph and Argus. Philip Davies MP hits back at extra wage claims and criticism [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19711643.philip-davies-mp-hits-back-extra-wage-claims-criticism/

[8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/apr/05/rishi-sunak-facing-calls-suspend-whip-scott-benton

[9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65207681

[10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/mps-given-gifts-by-gambling-firms-repeatedly-supported-the-industry-in-parliament-3451665

[11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-07/debates/886612E0-B29F-400A-9665-1F95916C58EE/UKCasinoIndustry

[12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jul/06/mps-to-raise-concerns-over-no-10-advisers-with-links-to-gambling-industry

[13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/23/mps-criticise-uk-gambling-regulator-addiction

[14] Coinslot International, Parliamentary Group Report: The Gambling Commission has "gone rogue" and overstepped the bounds of its regulatory remit [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.coinslot.co.uk/2022/01/28/parliamentary-group-report-the-gambling-commission-has-gone-rogue-and-overstepped-the-bounds-of-its-regulatory-remit/

[15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/22081/documents/163809/default/

[16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/parliamentary-all-party-betting-gaming-goup-steve-donoughue/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_ios&utm_campaign=share_via 

[17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.politicshome.com/members/profile/betting-and-gaming-council?news_pg=1

[18] ConservativeHome. Scott Benton: We are right to reform the UK's gambling laws – but we must not drive punters into the arms of the black market [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://conservativehome.com/2020/12/29/scott-benton-we-conservatives-are-right-to-reform-the-uks-gambling-laws-but-we-must-not-drive-punters-into-the-arms-of-the-illegal-black-market/

[19] National World. Revealed: the full extent of the betting lobby's campaign to influence the Government's gambling white paper [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/revealed-the-full-extent-of-the-betting-lobbys-campaign-to-influence-the-governments-gambling-white-paper-4096756

[20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/08/firm-behind-voice-of-gamblers-group-co-owned-by-betting-industry-consultant


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