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Scott Benton Scandal: A Return on Investment

The relationship between the gambling industry and MPs was brought into sharp focus by the undercover sting on Scott Benton in April 2023, revealing the benefits gambling companies may hope to gain from their financial outlay. Benton, subsequently suspended from parliament for 35 days and no longer a Conservative MP, offered a number of different lobbying options to the undercover reporters seeking a salaried "expert adviser" amid the Government's gambling review. Benton, who has disclosed £9,000 worth of hospitality from gambling firms since 2021, suggested that he could provide "real-time information" and "easy access" to ministers. [8] He also guaranteed a copy of the gambling white paper at least 48 hours before it was published and revealed tactics used by the gambling industry to keep their hospitality off the MP's register of interests. [8] 

"Without saying too much", Benton stated, "you'd be amazed at the number of times I've been to races, and the ticket comes to £295". [8] This is under the £300 threshold at which MPs must register gifts, benefits or hospitality and suggests that the total cost of hospitality received by MPs since December 2020 may be significantly larger than the figure shown on the MPs' register of interests. [9] Benton's comments are particularly pertinent in the context of his own register of interests, where there is only one entry relating to horse racing since 2020 - £1400 worth of hospitality at Royal Ascot courtesy of the BGC. [1] The Times' revelations suggest that Benton has attended more than that and that the disclosed total value of hospitality received by MPs from the gambling industry has been artificially decreased.

Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that Benton requested that the tickets come to less than £300, it is worth considering why gambling companies would seek to keep the hospitality they have bestowed on MPs off the public record. Benton himself has stated that hospitality events are opportunities to discuss "important issues with people in the industry", and gambling firms would surely hope this would translate to influence in parliament. [10]

Four hours before Benton and 11 other MPs were hosted by Entain Holdings at Wembley for the semi-final of the Euros, he spoke in parliament warning against restrictions on the gambling industry. Extolling the benefits of casinos to the economy and local communities, Benton urged that the gambling review must be "established on the evidence, not on preconceived ideas and ideology". [11]

Laurence Robertson, a fellow recipient of c. £3,500 worth of hospitality that evening, expressed another of the industry's primary arguments, warning against stringent restrictions due to the "great danger that people will play on the black market". [11] Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny noted that the gambling industry often cites the "threat of the black market" despite the fact they "always knew it was a bit of a bogus argument". [6]

John Spellar, who had received hospitality worth £2,800 from BGC and Power Leisure Bookmakers that summer, emphasised the "urgent need to recognise the industry's importance for the treasury". [11] Rarely has this issue been as transparent as in a Westminster Hall debate in 2022, where Jonathan Gullis MP read from a briefing written by Bet365. [12] Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, later apologised for forgetting to declare his receipt of £540 worth of hospitality from Bet365 to watch Stoke City. [12]

Whilst MPs are prohibited from 'paid advocacy', at the very least, it would appear that gifts and hospitality are an opportunity for gambling firms to convince MPs of their arguments against further regulation.

[2] The Guardian. Almost £225,000 in wages and freebies taken from gambling industry by 28 MPs [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[3] Tortoise Media. High Stakes [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[4] The Guardian. Gambling industry increased spending on MPs tenfold in five years, data shows [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[5] PARLIAMENT.UK. Mr Laurence Robertson MP Not Upheld [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[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:

[8] The Guardian. Tory MP Scott Benton has whip suspended after newspaper sting [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[9] BBC News. MP Scott Benton claims ways around hospitality rules [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[10] National World. MPs given gifts by gambling and betting firms repeatedly supported the industry in Parliament [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[11] Hansard. UK Casino Industry. Volume 698: Debated on Wednesday Jul 7 2021 [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[12] The Guardian. MPs to raise concerns over No 10 advisers with links to gambling industry [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[13] The Guardian. MPs criticise UK gambling regulator for trying to reduce addiction [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[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:

[15] PARLIAMENT.UK. House of Commons Committee on Standards. All-Party Parliamentary Groups: Improving Governance and Regulation [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[16] Linkedin. Steve Donoghue: Parliamentary All Party Betting and gaming group [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from: 

[17] PoliticsHome. Betting & Gaming Council [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:

[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:

[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:

[20] The Guardian. Firm behind 'voice of gamblers' group co-owned by betting industry consultant [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 15]. Available from:


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