More people investigated over election bet claims

More people investigated over election bet claims

17 minutes ago

By Chris Mason, @ChrisMasonBBCPolitical editor

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The gambling regulator’s inquiries into bets placed on the timing of the general election involve more people than those publicly named so far, the BBC understands.

Other people linked to the Conservative Party or the government are being looked into by the Gambling Commission, I am told.

The Commission itself has at no point named any of those it is taking a look at nor said how many. The BBC has previously reported that four Conservative officials, including two election candidates, are being looked into.

Part of the inquiries the betting industry conducts in instances like this is attempting to establish if bets have been placed not just by those who may have had access to privileged information, but those with connections to them too.

This can involve a trawl of social media, for instance, to try to establish digital fingerprints that may provide suggestions about how people may know each other.

The Gambling Commission, we understand, asked betting companies to share details of anyone who had bet £20 or more on a July election.

Labour has stepped up its attempts to keep asking questions about what it is calling “a scandal”.

Pat McFadden, the party’s National Campaign Co-ordinator, has written to the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, to argue that “it is in the public interest that the Gambling Commission makes public the names of other figures you are investigating relating to this matter”.

“There will be particular interest in whether any government ministers bet on the date of the election before it was called,” he wrote.

In other words, Labour are stoking speculation – without any specific evidence – that a minister, or perhaps more than one, might have placed a bet.

Election campaigns can be a rough old business, and so the absence of knowing the full list of those being looked into allows Labour to ask that question, until every single minister has denied putting on a bet.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are attempting to draw parallels between all of this and what became known as Partygate – the parties in government during the pandemic lockdowns when such gatherings were banned.

They argue it is evidence that the Conservatives, or at least some of them, believe it is one rule for them and another for everyone else.

Some 22.5 million people in the UK bet on a monthly basis – around half the adult population – and it is expected that the amount of bets right now is likely to be higher than usual because of the Euros football tournament.

Clearly the political danger for the Conservatives is, therefore, that this is a row that will cut through – or in other words, be noticed.

The worry for them will be the potential for a trickle of further revelations in the coming days which could further drown out their broader campaigning themes – the dangers, as they see them, of what they call a Labour “super majority” and what Labour in government might add to your taxes.

The Gambling Commission has repeated the statement it has continued to make in recent days.

A spokeswoman said: “The Gambling Commission regulates gambling in the interests of consumers and the wider public. Currently the Commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election.

“This is an ongoing investigation, and the Commission cannot provide any further details at this time.

“We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved in this investigation.”

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