UK Tory Party Insider Election Betting Scandal Blows Up as New Suspect Named

Posted on: June 24, 2024, 05:06h. 

Last updated on: June 24, 2024, 05:06h.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is investigating a fourth staffer in Britain’s governing Conservative (Tory) Party administration for insider betting.

Nick Mason, Tory betting scandal, Election, Conservatives, Rishi Sunak, Craig Williams, Laura Saunders, Tony Lee, Election bets, UKGC
Nick Mason, above, is the latest Tory caught up in the UKGC’s insider betting probe which has engulfed the government with just ten days until Brits head to the polls. (Image: LinkedIn)

The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, has joined the list of government insiders suspected of betting on the timing of the surprise July 4 election, just days before it was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on May 22.

Mason may have placed “dozens” of bets, according to a source who spoke to London’s Sunday Times. He denies wrongdoing.

Mason joins Sunak’s closest aide, Craig Williams, who has admitted placing a £100 bet on the likelihood of a July election at odds of 5/1 but has refused to be drawn on whether it was made with privileged information.

Williams is standing in the election as MP for Montgomeryshire, Wales, as is Laura Saunders, an election hopeful for Bristol North West. She’s also in the frame, along with her husband, Tony Lee, the Conservative Party’s director of campaigns.

An unnamed member of Sunak’s personal security has also been suspended from duty pending the result of the UKGC investigation.

Sunak ‘Very Angry’

The deepening crisis has sent the party’s election campaign into a tailspin with just a week and a half to go until Britons hit the ballot box to decide the next administration.

The Tories have been trailing in the polls since the start of 2022 and are 1/200 with some bookmakers to win the election. That’s an implied probability of 0.5%. In short, an already doomed campaign has got a whole lot worse.

In a live TV debate broadcast by The Sun newspaper Monday, Sunak said he was “very angry” about the situation. But he deflected calls to suspend his four colleagues, citing the ongoing UKGC investigation.

If anyone has broken the rules, they should face not just the full consequences of the law, but they will be booted out of the Conservative Party,” Sunak said.

Insider betting is illegal in the UK and comes with a maximum penalty of two years in prison under the “cheating at gambling” section of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The Sun’s Harry Cole accused the Tories of “stealing the candlesticks” on the way out of government.

‘Politically Exposed’

Unlike in the US, political betting markets are legal in the UK, but they are relatively small and are closely monitored by operators. That’s especially true when there’s a chance the outcome of a certain bet could be known by a select group of people in advance.

Meanwhile, under anti-money laundering regulations, all operators are required to pay close attention to customers who qualify as “politically exposed persons” (PEPs). That’s because they carry a greater risk of involvement in bribery or corruption, and therefore money laundering.

Williams’ bet was the first to be uncovered and was referred to the UKGC by the unnamed operator he placed it with. The regulator subsequently contacted all major UK betting companies requesting details of gamblers who had placed £20 or more on a July election prior to Sunak’s announcement.

The BBC understands that more individuals are under investigation, including those who may have connections to Conservative Party insiders.

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