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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Standards Commissioner finds MPs in breach of rules over FOBT report

MPs had called for gaming machine stakes to be cut to £2
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The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has found a report published in January by MPs who support a major cut in the maximum stake on gaming machines was in breach of the rules governing all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs).

The report from the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals APPG called for a £2 per spin maximum to be imposed from the current £100.

It prompted Association of British Bookmakers chief executive Malcolm George to complain to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson that the APPG, chaired by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, had not been transparent about who had helped fund the report.

The associate members who provide funding for the group include gaming machine industry trade body Bacta, the Hippodrome Casino, casino and arcades machine manufacturer Novomatic, and casino and arcades company Praesepe, who the ABB said were "vested interests" who would benefit should the recommendations of the report be implemented.

The commissioner found the APPG had failed to record who attended the group’s meetings or take proper minutes, had not put an official disclaimer on its report to make clear it was not an official House of Commons publication, failed to meet a rule on transparency by making clear it received free help from public affairs company Interel, and failed to reveal Interel’s status as a donor on the report’s front cover.

However, the commissioner found that the breaches were "all at the less serious end of the spectrum".

George said: "We are delighted the Standards Commissioner recognised four clear breaches of the rules and upheld our complaint.

"This small and unrepresentative group of anti-FOBT MPs failed to make it clear they were funded by vested interests, including commercial rivals of high-street bookmakers.

"The group failed to keep proper records of which parliamentarians, if any, came to their secretive meetings.

"The MPs' report has been exposed as a shambolic, shoddy and one-sided piece of work that has broken a long list of parliamentary rules."

The government is carrying out a review into gaming machine stakes and prizes, gambling advertising and social responsibility measures, and had been expected to report on its findings this month.

However, the calling of a snap general election for June 8 means those findings are not likely to be released until later this year.

We are delighted the Standards Commissioner recognised four clear breaches of the rules and upheld our complaint
E.W. Terms
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