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Are political parties gambling on their electoral future? The reputation risk of wagering on the UK elections

EPIC’s director of safer gambling, Dan Spencer, assesses how the UK’s upcoming General Election faces an unexpected twist, as investigations into gambling on its outcome dominate the discussion ahead of most party policies.

Of all the subjects that were expected to be a deciding factor in the upcoming UK General Election, very few could have predicted at the start of the campaign period that gambling activity would become such a potentially divisive issue.

As the media scrutiny around the bets being placed on the July 4 polls intensifies, it is becoming increasingly apparent that betting on the outcome of elections isn’t an unusual occurrence among Members of Parliament (MPs), given that the practice isn’t forbidden.

There are a number of different storylines ongoing, all of them drawn back to gambling. A number of Conservative Party candidates have been told that they will not receive the party whip, if elected, as a result of placing bets on the date of the election, close to the date it was revealed, whilst Labour Party have also withdrawn support for a candidate for placing a bet on his Conservative rival to win the seat he is contesting.

Other political figures, such as Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, have also confirmed that they have previously placed bets on the outcome of elections.

Whilst some observers will see optimistic wagers on a successful outcome for their own party as something that offers minimal risk in terms of crossing any lines of integrity, there is understandable public discussion that using insider knowledge to try and win a lucrative bet, or betting against your own chances of success, certainly carries a greater risk to both reputation and integrity.

It is a different type of gambling-related harm to the one we normally reference in our daily activities, but one that carries a risk to organizations nonetheless – in this case political parties and the trust they need to maintain with the electorate.

In the absence of defined rules preventing politicians or prospective MPs placing a stake on the outcome of elections, it has the potential to remain an issue that harms politics in ways that are more likely to be prevented in the other sector that’s the subject of most daily betting activity – professional sport – because politicians aren’t given the same red line as athletes to follow when it comes to betting on their own activities.

We have previously spoken about working with ‘at-risk sectors’ – of which politics wasn’t one – but this very public debate serves as a timely reminder for all institutions of the risks to their reputation (and potential success) of falling on the wrong side of the complications that can stem from gambling.

Engendering a culture within organizations where gambling issues can be freely discussed and brought to a safe, successful outcome as needed is important to all organizations, especially those in the public eye. Providing education and training to staff on recognizing gambling-related harm, alongside providing wider consultancy to the company to assess how it can support and protect staff from such harms, should remain a high priority for any organization that values its people and wants to avoid similar scrutiny of the type being faced by the UK’s leading political parties right now.

Dan Spencer
Director of Safer Gambling

To find out more about the range of services that EPIC Global Solutions can provide to all sectors to mitigate against the risk of gambling-related harm affecting their organization, click here.

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