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Election betting scandal deepens as more candidates investigated | Politics News

The election betting scandal has deepened as a Welsh Conservative is being investigated and a cabinet minister revealed he placed bets on the general election date.

Russell George, a Welsh Conservative member of the Senedd, stepped back from the shadow cabinet after it emerged he was facing a probe by the Gambling Commission over alleged betting on the timing of the vote.

He said he would “cooperate fully” with the investigation, and Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies said all other members of the Welsh Conservative Group had “confirmed that they have not placed any bets”.

Mr George is the third Conservative candidate to be named as part of the commission’s investigation, while two Tory officials, Rishi Sunak’s close protection officer and five other officers are also under investigation.

Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said he put three wagers on the timing of the poll but denied breaking any rules and said he is not under investigation.

Up to 15 Conservative candidates and officials are being investigated by the Gambling Commission, according to BBC Newsnight.

The growing scope of the scandal has led to questions over whether politicians should be banned from betting on politics, as footballers are on football.

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Tories launch own probe into betting scandal

Mr Jack said in April he had put £20 at odds of 5/1 on an election being held between July and September but had no knowledge of when it would be called until the day Mr Sunak announced it on 22 May.

He said he placed two unsuccessful £5 bets in March for a vote to be held in May and June.

Pic: PA
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack arrives in Downing Street, London, for a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday April 30, 2024.
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he bet on the election but way before it was announced. Pic: PA

“I am very clear that I have never, on any occasion, broken any Gambling Commission rules,” he said.

“Specifically, I did not place any bets on the date of the general election during May [the period under investigation by the Gambling Commission].

“Furthermore, I am not aware of any family or friends placing bets.

“I want to be absolutely clear I have not breached any gambling rules. I placed two unsuccessful bets on the date of the general election and one successful one.”

What is the law around gambling?

There are stricts rules around gambling, with the latest laws updated in 2005.

Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005 deals with cheating and says a person commits an offence if they cheat at gambling or do “anything for the purpose of enabling or assisting another person to cheat at gambling”.

It adds: “It is immaterial whether a person who cheats improves his changes of winning anything, or wins anything.”

Cheating is defined as an “actual or attempted deception or interference in connection with the process by which gambling is conducted, or a real or virtual game, race or other event or process to which gambling relates”.

Someone found guilty of cheating at gambling can be imprisoned for a maximum of two years and/or fined, or be jailed for six months for a lesser offence.

Betting with insider knowledge is also not allowed as an MP, with the MPs’ code of conduct prohibiting members from “causing significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House”.

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On Tuesday, Labour got involved in the scandal for the first time after the Labour candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Kevin Craig, was suspended from the party after betting on a Conservative winning the seat.

It is understood Labour will return £100,000 in donations he has made to the party since Sir Keir Starmer took charge.

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Tuesday also saw five more police officers being added to the Gambling Commission’s investigation after the Met Police passed their names over.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told Sky News: “There is a broader issue here and a broader debate to be had about gambling around politics and politicians’ involvement in that and to try and establish where the line should be drawn.

“And it may be going forward that everybody concludes that it shouldn’t happen at all.

“It may be that it should happen, but just on a certain basis and so on and so forth. But I think that is a debate, longer-term, that we need to be having.”

Craig Williams and Laura Saunders. Pics: PA/Laura Saunders for Bristol North West
Craig Williams and Laura Saunders. Pics: PA/Laura Saunders for Bristol North West

Mr Sunak has withdrawn backing for the first two Tory candidates to be investigated after coming under pressure to take a tougher approach on the alleged use of inside information to bet on the timing of the election.

Laura Saunders and Craig Williams will appear as Conservative candidates on ballot papers as it is too late to remove them, but will have to stand as independents.

Two officials under investigation both took a leave of absence last week when their names were revealed. They are Tony Lee, the Tory’s director of campaigns and husband of Ms Saunders, and Nick Mason, the party’s chief data officer – who has denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Sunak’s close protection officer was arrested last week over alleged bets on a July election.

A full list of the candidates running for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich is below:

Charlie Caiger, independent
Tony Gould, Reform UK
Mike Hallatt, independent
Brett Mickelburgh, Lib Dems
Dan Pratt, Greens
Patrick Spencer, Conservatives

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