Shipley MP defends bookmaker hospitality

SHIPLEY MP Philip Davies has defended hospitality he has received from a leading betting company.

Shipley MP Philip Davies.

Mr Davies was identified as one of four MPs who together have received more than £7,000 in wining and dining from Ladbrokes Coral.

Analysis by the BBC showed Mr Davies was entertained on eight occasions, Laurence Robertson on four occasions and Therese Coffey twice, and Labour’s Conor McGinn once.

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The hospitality was all declared in the register of members interests.

Mr Davies said: “I am the elected chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Betting and Gaming - and a former bookmaker - so of course I meet with bookmakers.

“It would be rather extraordinary if I didn’t.”

The BBC analysis found that, out of 187 donations from UK sources registered by MPs, 58 were from the world of sport with a further 19 from betting companies.

MPs are required to register gifts or hospitality if the total received from a single source exceeds £300 in a year.

In the most recent update of the register, published on August 29, the Ladbrokes Coral Group accounted for 15 entries, including trips to Ascot, Doncaster and Cheltenham races, the Community Shield at Wembley and dinner at the Conservative Party conference.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, claimed the industry is trying to “wine and dine” MPs before the Government responds to a review of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), the high-stakes machines in many high street bookies.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes Coral told the BBC: “We employ over 25,000 people, we have a high street presence in nearly every constituency in the land and pay UK taxes of circa £55 million per annum.

“Of course we engage with politicians; we want to make sure that when decisions are taken that affect our 25,000 people, they are done from a position of knowledge.”

But Mr Zarb-Cousin, a former spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The bookmakers are desperate to keep their FOBTs at £100 a spin, so they’re throwing as much money as they can at lobbying MPs before the Government responds to the review in October.

“But it says a lot about the strength of their argument that they need to wine and dine politicians to get them onside.”