Gambling and politics – a dangerous game

Lea Hogg 1 month ago
Gambling and politics – a dangerous game

The world of politics is no stranger to scandal, and the recent case of Scott Benton, the MP for Blackpool South, is a powerful reminder of the potential pitfalls that can arise when political interests intersect with the gambling industry. Benton, formerly a Conservative member of parliament, found himself in hot water after offering to lobby ministers on behalf of the gambling industry. His proposition, which included leaking a confidential policy document for up to £4,000 a month, was deemed an “extremely serious breach of the rules” by the Commons standards committee.

This led to a proposal to suspend him for 35 days, subject to a parliamentary vote. The incident came to light following an investigation by undercover reporters from The Times, who posed as representatives of a fake investment fund. Benton told them he could “call in favours” from colleagues and gain “easy access” to ministers when queuing for parliamentary votes.

The Commons Standards Committee condemned Benton’s actions, stating that he communicated a “toxic message about standards in parliament” and unjustifiably tarnished the reputation of all MPs. Benton appealed against the verdict on the grounds that the procedure was flawed and claimed the decision was leaked by the committee. However, his appeal was dismissed by the independent expert panel, which hears challenges to the watchdog’s findings.

If the Commons backs the verdict, Benton, who was stripped of the Conservative whip after the allegations surfaced, could find the Conservatives faced with yet another byelection. This could prove to be a significant challenge for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, (pictured on left), who will be faced with an unexpected and difficult byelection.

The seat of Blackpool South is one of the “red wall” seats, having backed the Labour party from the 1997 election until Benton’s win in 2019. It is one of the most deprived areas in England. Labour has selected the leftwing trade unionist Chris Webb as its prospective parliamentary candidate for the seat, which Keir Starmer’s party believes it can win. This incident serves as a wake-up call of the potential dangers of mixing politics with the gambling industry. It highlights the need for stringent regulations and transparency to ensure that political decisions are made in the best interest of the public and not influenced by external financial incentives. As the fallout from this scandal continues to unfold, it is clear that the stakes are high, not just for Benton and the Conservative Party, but for the integrity of the UK political system as a whole.

Bookies odds for UK general election

The recent byelections in the UK have shown a clear shift in the political landscape, with Labour gaining ground on the Conservatives and Reform UK emerging as a potential threat to the Tory vote. The results have raised questions about the future of Rishi Sunak’s leadership and his strategy for the next general election, expected later this year.

Sunak, who became prime minister in June 2023 after Boris Johnson’s resignation, has faced a series of challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic recovery, the climate crisis, and the fallout from Brexit. He has also faced criticism from his own party over his tax and spending policies, his handling of the social care crisis, and his controversial bill to grant new oil and gas licences.

Sunak has insisted that he will not call an early election, arguing that he needs more time to deliver on his agenda and restore trust in the government. However, some analysts have suggested that he may be tempted to go to the polls sooner rather than later, before the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (pictured above right), consolidates his position and the Reform UK leader Nigel Farage gains more momentum.

The bookies odds reflect the uncertainty over the timing and outcome of the next general election. According to the latest odds from Paddy Power, the most likely date for the election is October-December 2024, with odds of 1.3, followed by April-June 2024, with odds of 5.0. The most likely result is a Labour majority, with odds of 2/5, followed by a Labour minority, with odds of 7/2. The Conservatives are the underdogs, with odds of 6/1 for a majority and 9/2 for a minority. Reform UK, meanwhile, has odds of 50/1 for the most seats and 66/1 for a majority.

The next general election will be a crucial test for Sunak and his party, as well as for Starmer and Farage. It will also be a decisive moment for the country, as it faces the challenges and opportunities of the post-pandemic and post-Brexit era. The stakes are high, and the voters will have the final say.

————-Stop Press: the next SiGMA Eurasia Summit takes place in Dubai between 25 – 27 FebruaryThe next SiGMA Africa Summit takes place in Cape Town between 11-13 March The fourth edition of SiGMA Eurasia will once again be held at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. Held between the 25 and 27 February 2024, the summit provides invaluable networking opportunities for industry professionals, gain exposure to the latest tech and innovations in the sector, meet key decision makers, and gain insight into new marketsSiGMA Africa event kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa on the 11 March. Building on the success of its inaugural edition in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2023, SiGMA Group recognizes the need to foster collaboration and innovation within the industry.

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