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With the government finally publishing the long-awaited white paper on gambling, our investigation has found that Conservative Party MP, Philip Davies, lobbied ministers to reduce regulations on behalf of an exclusive, London-based casino.
Davies is no stranger to the gambling industry; he is the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Betting and Gaming. APPGs are cross-party interest groups run by Members of the Commons and Lords but often include outside organisations.
Since becoming a Tory MP, Philip Davies has received over £57,000 in consultancy fees and hospitality from Entain Holdings- the owners of Ladbrokes and Coral. Davies is a regular recipient of ‘hospitality’ funded by the gambling firms – including trips to the Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and the Cheltenham races.
Documents obtained by Good Law Project reveal Mr Davies wrote to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, on three occasions during her first month in office.
On 23 February 2023, Davies wrote to the Minister using official House of Commons headed paper praising the Les Ambassadeurs club, a “Mayfair based casino that caters to ultra-high net worth foreign visitors” before lobbying the Minister for the removal of regulations that safeguard the gambler and increases profit for the casino – a move that appears to have influenced policy makers.
In his letter, Davies lobbied for reform to credit arrangements that directly benefit casinos like Les Ambassadeurs club. The MP said:
“Unfortunately, due to Section 81 of the Gambling Act (2005), the UK is placed at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting these ultra-high net worth individuals. Section 81 bans all credit arrangements in casinos save from cheques”
“..Unfortunately, this arrangement is no longer viable..”
“..The Club therefore requires an ability to provide its clients with a line of credit for a short period of time so that they can settle with them before they depart the club.”
“..I would therefore like to state my strong support for this modest change and hope that a solution can be found in the White Paper.”
Davies’ lobbying of ministers appears to have succeeded: the government’s recently published white paper on gambling reforms, has confirmed the intention to make a “limited change” to the act which will “permit casinos to offer credit to non-UK residents” referring directly to “wealthy overseas visitors in the high-end sector”
You can read the full letter to the Secretary of State, Lucy Frazer, here.
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The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Betting and Gaming was established to act as ‘go-between’ for the industry, Parliament and the government and counts eight Conservative Party and two Labour Party politicians as officers.
Philip Davies isn’t the only officer of the pro-gambling, parliamentary group who has become embroiled in a lobbying scandal in recent weeks.
The Chair of the APPG, Scott Benton MP, was recently exposed by undercover reporters offering to influence policy makers on behalf of gambling industry investors. The Conservative MP offered to ‘leak a confidential policy document and lobby ministers’ in return for being paid thousands of pounds a month, according to reports.
After the scandal, the APPG removed references to Scott Benton from its website and promoted Philip Davies to Co-Chair of the group – a move that was captured by the internet archive website, the wayback machine.
Links to group and gambling interests don’t stop with Benton and Davies. Aaron Bell MP, the vice-chair, accepted a £2,000 gift from the Betting and Gaming Council to attend the Brit Awards. And gambling industry consultant, Steve Donoughue, acts as the group secretariat.
In May 2022, the Committee on Standards called for a new package of reforms to regulate APPGs in order to safeguard Parliament from “improper lobbying and hostile state actors”.
In recent years, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a gambling industry backed organisation that includes the Les Ambassadeurs club as a member, has ramped up donations to political parties.
Reports suggest the gambling industry has handed out over £209,000 since 2021 primarily in the form of hospitality to MPs, with the BGC increasingly becoming the source of the spending. The group has also hired Tory MP Lawrence Robertson as an advisor, paying him £200/hr for his services.
In the last few months alone, the BGC has handed out hospitality worth £12,000 to eight Conservative MPs including Philip Davies MP and a further £4,000 to three Labour MPs.
MPs have lapped up hospitality at sporting events paid for by the gambling industry including trips to Premier League football matches, Test cricket, Rugby League finals and more.
A spokesperson for the BGC said:
“Any hospitality is consistent with the parliamentary rules and is fully declared and transparent.”
Good Law Project approached Philip Davies, the APPG Betting and Gaming Group, Les Ambassadeurs club and the DCMS for comment.
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