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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tory candidate in Betting controversy

Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Of particular interest to Welsh politicos, the Guardian reports that Rishi Sunak’s closest parliamentary aide placed a £100 bet on a July election just three days before the prime minister named the date.

The paper says that the Gambling Commission is understood to have launched an inquiry after Craig Williams, the prime minister’s parliamentary private secretary, who became an MP in 2019, placed a bet with the bookmaker Ladbrokes on Sunday 19 May in his local constituency of Montgomeryshire:

On 22 May, Sunak made the surprise announcement that a general election would be held on 4 July.

In a statement, Williams said: “I’ve been contacted by a journalist about Gambling Commission inquiries into one of my accounts and thought it best to be totally transparent.

“I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. This has resulted in some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully cooperate with these.

“I don’t want it to be a distraction from the campaign, I should have thought how it looks.”

A Conservative party spokesperson added: “We are aware of contact between a Conservative candidate and the Gambling Commission.

“It is a personal matter for the individual in question. As the Gambling Commission is an independent body, it wouldn’t be proper to comment further, until any process is concluded.”

It is understood that a red flag was automatically raised by Ladbrokes as the bet in Williams’ name was potentially placed by a “politically exposed person”, and the bookmaker is particularly cautious over “novelty” markets.

The £100 bet, which could have led to a £500 payout on odds of 5/1, is believed to have been placed via an online account that would have required the user to provide personal details including their date of birth and debit card. The bookmaker also knows the location of the bet.

Ladbrokes referred the case to the Gambling Commission, which is understood to have launched an inquiry. The Guardian understands the regulator informed Downing Street officials last week. Using confidential information to gain an unfair advantage when betting may constitute a criminal offence.

Separately, the MPs’ code of conduct prohibits members from “causing significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the house”. The bet was placed while parliament was still in session.

While Sunak’s general election announcement last month came as a surprise to the public and many Conservative MPs, the prime minister is thought to have been considering and debating the timing for months. He is believed to have settled on the July date weeks before confirming it in heavy rain outside Downing Street.

The alleged bet, which would not have received a payout until after the election took place, is likely to be highly embarrassing for Sunak, who has been accused of presiding over a calamitous general election campaign. Sunak and Williams will now face questions about who knew about the election date and when.

It will be interesting to see how this goes down in the new constituency of Montgomryshire and Glyndwr.
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