Blackpool South MP Scott Benton accepted almost £8,000 in free Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and Euro 2020 tickets from gambling industry

Resort MP Scott Benton accepted nearly £8,000 worth of freebie sports tickets from the gambling industry before campaigning for a super casino, the register of MPs' interests revealed.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 3:38 pm

It comes a week after the Blackpool South tory MP asked culture secretary John Whittingdale to review a case for a super casino in Blackpool, and promoted the use of high street betting shops.

The MP register of interests showed Mr Benton accepted £7494.60 in hospitality and free tickets to major sporting events from gambling firms in the country and abroad.

He took hospitality at Royal Ascot, worth £1,400 from from the Betting and Gaming Council, and a ticket and hospitality for Wimbledon worth £1,100 from Gibraltar firm Entain Operations.

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Blackpool South MP Scott Benton took almost £8,000 in sports tickets and hospitality from the gambling industry, ahead of calling for a new super casino in Blackpool and promoting high street bookies.

Entain Operations owns multiple gambling sites across the UK, including bookies Ladbrokes and Coral.

Mr Benton also bagged free tickets to Euro 2020 games, including a ticket and hospitality at the England v Denmark semi-final worth £3,457 from Entain Operations, and the same at the England v Czech Republic game worth £1,537.60, from online casino and bingo firm Gamesys Group.

The freebies were all accepted between June 17 and July 7.

Six other tory MPs and two labour MPs also claimed free tickets to sports events from the gambling industry, but none to the same amount as Mr Benton.

The gambling and betting firms hosted the MPs as the government undertakes a review of the Gambling Act, to consider further advertising restrictions.

But Mr Benton came under fire from resort residents, another political party and a gambling addiction group this week in the wake of his betting shop promotion and bid for a super casino.

He argued that a super casino would be a welcomed regeneration project for Blackpool, boosting the town's tourism and leisure industry and creating jobs.

But Blackpool and Fylde Green Party blasted the proposal, saying Mr Benton was "out of touch" with what his constituents need.

The chairman of a gambling addiction support group also said the MP's promotion of high street betting to put money back into the Treasury was "inappropriate".

Gambling problems are on the rise in Blackpool, chairman Terry Kilgariff added, and "anyone who uses these shops on a regular basis is more susceptible to getting a problem with it."

Meanwhile, Mr Benton's push for a review of the case for a super casino in Westminster Hall came on July 7 - the same day he received a free ticket from Entain for England's Euros semi-final clash against Denmark.

He asked: "Will the minister commit himself to reviewing the case for a regional casino during the gambling review and assess the significant positive economic impact that a regional casino could make to a town such as Blackpool, which would be the obvious location to host such a casino?”

Mr Whittingdale said "the legislation is still on the statute book and could therefore be utilised," if support for the bid was received well by residents, if a suitable operator could be found and if it was supported by Blackpool Council.

But Blackpool Council said this was the first time they had heard about talks of a super casino for "a number of years," although bosses were happy to enter into discussions.

Mr Benton told the Gazette that although he had not earmarked a site for the super casino yet, he would welcome one in his constituency.

"My discussions at the moment are with operators to see if they would be interested, and if that's the case then I would put forward a strong case for Blackpool," he said.

"I would like for it to be in my constituency, there are a huge number of derelict sites and brownfield land around."

Mr Benton was contacted for comment.

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