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UK Politics

Advertising watchdog rejects complaints from Tory MP with links to the bookies

Philip Davies comes under fire for failing to declare hospitality received from Ladbrokes

A right-wing Tory MP with links to the betting industry has been comprehensively rebuffed after putting in a series of complaints about advertisements warning against the dangers of roulette machines.

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, had complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about five claims made by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, who had advertised in The House magazine, which is read by MPs, calling for a curb on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The campaign has recommended that the current maximum stake of £100 should be reduced to £2

The advertisement described FOBTs as “the scourge of the high street”, alleged that they have “addictive roulette content”, that they have been so widespread that they are known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, that “thousands of families” are affected by FOBT addiction, and that they amount to “exploitation of poorer communities during a time of recession”.

The ASA has announced that it has rejected all five of Mr Davies’ complaints, after the campaign produced evidence to back each claim. Mr Davies is appealing the ASA's decision.

The complete dismissal of Mr Davies’ complaints comes after the MP was criticised by the Parliamentary Standards commissioner in February for failing to declare, during a select committee hearing, hospitality he had received in 2011 from Ladbrokes.

In the Register of Members’ Interests, Mr Davies declared receiving £1,200 worth of hospitality from the betting group Coral between May and July this year. He also declared the Ladbrokes hospitality in the register.

Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “Mr Davies was able to get media coverage attacking our campaign by complaining to the ASA.

“Our House ad content has been vindicated by the ASA, whilst Mr Davies has run true to form and been exposed as acting in the interests of the bookmakers yet again.

"He calls for lower taxes, less regulation and for more addictive FOBTs to be allowed, whilst he has enjoyed the generous hospitality of the bookmakers.”

The spread of gambling machines in high street shops is blamed on flaws in the 2005 Gambling Act, which liberalised gambling regulations while supposedly safeguarding against addictive gambling.

A punter using a high speed FOBT can theoretically stake £100 every 20 seconds, or £18,000 an hour. Norway introduced tight restrictions on the machines in 2007 and last month, the Irish government began moves to ban them. The UK government has said that it will wait a year before deciding to take action to give time for the Responsible Gambling Trust, a charity partly financed by the gambling industry, to make a report.