Ladbrokes Coral tops British MP donation list
Ladbrokes Coral Group handed out more gifts, benefits and hospitality to British Members of Parliament (MPs) than any other company between the start of 2016 and July this year.
According to a list made public by the Government, Ladbrokes Coral accounted for 15 entries, some way ahead of UK commercial broadcaster ITV in second place with eight gifts.
Benefits handed out by Ladbrokes Coral included trips to major UK horse racing events at Ascot, Cheltenham and Doncaster, as well as tickets to the Community Shield club football match and a dinner at the Conservative Party conference.
British MPs are required by law to declare any sort of gift, benefit or hospitality over the value of £400 (€327/$389), although any donations under this are not recorded.
Although Ladbrokes Coral was named as the most common donor in the period, the Road Haulage Association was revealed as the largest individual donor, after providing funds of £22,577 for a researcher in the office of Dover MP Charlie Elphicke.
In a statement published by a number of media outlets, a Ladbrokes Coral spokesperson said: “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 £55m 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.”
However, Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, has hit out at the revelation, accusing Ladbrokes Coral of being “desperate” to keep the top stake of £100 for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The machines have come under much criticism from various sectors over claims they are addictive and make it easy for punters to lose large amounts of money in a short period of time.
The UK Government is expected to shortly undertake a review of FOBTs and consider cutting this stake to a maximum of £2.
According to the BBC, Zarb-Cousin said: “They will throw as much money as they can.
“It shows a lot about the strength of their argument that they need to wine and dine MPs.”
A number of MPs have openly admitted speaking with Ladbrokes Coral about the issue of FOBTs, but also said they discussed other matters with the firm, such as taxation and horse racing.
Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury, said: “Similar to most countries in the world, UK horse racing is very largely financially supported by bookmakers and there is a fear that curtailing their income by reducing the stakes on FOBTs could cause many shops to close which would, in turn, lead to a dramatic reduction in the funding of horse racing, which, contrary to popular belief, is a very poorly funded sport in the first place.”
Related article: UK government delays FOBT review until autumn