Calls for Review on UK Gambling Laws as Election Betting Scandal Intensifies

15 Conservative candidates and officials are reportedly being looked at by the Gambling Commission over bets placed on the date of the general election.

Alexandra Griffiths - News Editor at
Alexandra Griffiths • News Editor
Jun 27, 2024 • 09:35 ET • 4 min read
Rishi Sunak UK Prime Minister
Photo By - SIPA

The number of Conservative candidates implicated in the election betting scandal has risen once again, with recent news that Welsh politician Russell George is now part of the inquiry. 

A Cabinet Minister, Scotland secretary Alister Jack, has also admitted betting on the election date. Jack said he had put £20 at odds of 5 to 1 on an election being held between July, but had no prior knowledge of the election date. However, when the BBC reported his claims that he had made more than £2,000 from betting on the date, he was quick to dismiss his comments as a “joke.”

The news came shortly after an announcement that five further police officers are said to have placed bets relating to the timing of the election. 

Unlike the officer from the Met's Royalty and Specialist Protection Command, the five police officers now being investigated haven’t been arrested.

“Decisions on whether they will be subject to any restrictions will be taken in due course,” a Met Police spokesperson said in a statement. “The officers are part of the royalty and specialist command, the parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, and the central west basic command unit.

“None of them work in a close protection role. Investigations will examine whether there were any links between these five and the arrested Met officer.” 

Number of Conservatives under investigation continues to rise 

BBC Newsnight is now reporting that up to 15 Conservative candidates and officials are being looked at by the Gambling Commission over bets placed on the date of the general election. Interviews with the regulator are said to be taking place this week. 

It’s not just the numbers of candidates involved that’s on the rise here, either. The seriousness of the allegations also looks to be worsening for Rishi Sunak and his team. It’s just been announced that detectives from the Metropolitan Police have taken the lead in a number of cases being investigated by the regulator. 

This is a story that has emerged over the last two weeks, and seems to have grown more difficult by the day for Sunak’s Conservatives. Initially, the Prime Minister seemed to want to sweep this story under the carpet, but as time has gone on, it’s proven impossible for him to do so. 

The Prime Minister’s hand was forced on Tuesday, when he took action by withdrawing support for the two candidates first named in the scandal. The party announced that it was pulling support from Craig Williams, a close aide to Sunak, and Laura Saunders, due to the bets they had placed. As yet, no other candidates have been suspended. 

The plot thickened once more just hours later, however, when it was announced that a Labour Party politician was also under investigation. But the Labour Party was quick to take action when it was informed that one of its candidates, Kevin Craig, was being investigated over a bet on the result in the area where he is standing for election. 

Craig’s immediate suspension by Labour shows a marked difference between responses from the two main parties. And this is a response that really matters - because the public is growing increasingly angry at the behavior of the Government, and in a few days time they just might demonstrate that anger at the polls.

Anger, frustration at yet another political scandal 

On Wednesday evening, Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer clashed for the final time in the last leader’s debate before the July 4 election, and the focus immediately turned to the scandal. 

While the Prime Minister said he was "frustrated" and "furious" about what had happened, Starmer was quick to demonstrate his decisive action, saying “when one of my team was alleged to have been involved and investigated by the Gambling Commission, they were suspended within minutes, because I knew it was really important to be swift."

"The prime minister delayed and delayed and delayed until eventually he was bullied into taking action."

Sunak responded: "It was important to me that given the seriousness and the sensitivity of the matters at hand that they were dealt with properly, and that's what I've done."

Is it curtains for the Conservatives? 

The Conservatives are no stranger to political scandal, with partygate fresh in the memories of UK voters. And this story isn’t unlike that of the party’s headline-grabbing indiscretions during COVID-19. Because it isn’t just one story – it’s a string of them, and with each passing day comes new and more damning revelations. 

While Labour have not come out of this squeaky clean, the Gambling Commission’s inquiry has proved particularly damaging for the Conservatives, who already had a reputation marred by sleaze and scandal. 

With a massive Labour win being predicted, the Conservatives need now, more than ever, to improve their reputation with the UK public. But the actions of a number of candidates, and even a cabinet minister, have shown total disregard for how things might look. 

It remains to be seen whether those who placed bets did so with prior knowledge of the election date, something that’s being called the political version of insider trading. But whether they did so or not, it’s difficult to argue against the criticism that Conservatives who knew they were on the way out were simply trying to make that last quick buck before they went. 

Will the scandal lead to reform in betting laws? 

There are now calls for more clarity on political gambling, with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey calling for a review on gambling laws. according to the BBC. Davey said that he himself had bet on the outcome of the election in the past, but drew a distinction between "having a flutter" and placing bets with inside knowledge. 

Starmer was more critical of the Conservatives, however. Starmer stated that the current rules were perfectly "clear enough" and that reforms on political gambling rules were not needed. Instead, Starmer argued that the issue lies in the behavior of politicians.

Criticism of the Conservatives has been growing as a result of the election betting scandal, but of course the party was already behind in the polls before this story surfaced. The story definitely hasn’t helped Sunak’s campaign, but how much it has hindered it remains to be seen. 

All eyes are now on the Gambling Commission as the regulator continues its investigation, along with the Metropolitan Police. 

Whether the scandal leads to changes in political gambling rules or not remains to be seen, but it looks likely that guidelines could soon be put in place to avoid any uncertainty over what Davey calls “having a flutter,” and unfair bets placed using inside knowledge.

Pages related to this topic

Popular Content

Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo