Everything we know about Tory election betting scandal – and who is being investigated

Rishi Sunak’s election campaign has been dealt a major blow in the run up to July 4 as his party becomes embroiled in a controversial betting scandal.

An ongoing investigation by the Gambling Commission has now led to two Conservative party candidates seeing support withdrawn by the party. At least three more party figures and seven police officers are being investigated, alongside one Labour candidate.

Cabinet minister Alister Jack recently came under fire for “joking” about placing three bets on the timing of the election. After some pressure, he later admitted he was telling the truth, but that the bets were placed before May. The minister for Scotland has denied being under investigation.

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The following day, Tory MP Sir Phillip Davies came under fire when it was reported he had placed a slightly different bet: £8,000 that he would lose his seat of Shipley. He is defending a 6,242 majority in the West Yorkshire seat. Sir Phillip has denied doing anything illegal, and it is not believed he is under investigation.

First uncovered two weeks ago, the scandal began when it was revealed now-suspended Conservative candidate Craig Williams placed a bet of £100 on the election taking place in July, just 3 days before Sunak announced the date in May.

Several people with ties to the Conservatives have subsequently been placed under investigation for allegedly placing similar bets on when the general election would take place.

Responding to the discovery, Mr Williams said: “I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. This has resulted in some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully cooperate with these.”

Tory betting scandal: Tony Lee, Chris Williams, Alister Jack, Rishi Sunak, Laura Saunders, Russell George (Getty/PA/Supplied)
Tory betting scandal: Tony Lee, Chris Williams, Alister Jack, Rishi Sunak, Laura Saunders, Russell George (Getty/PA/Supplied)

“I don’t want it to be a distraction from the campaign, I should have thought how it looks.”

He was suspended nearly two weeks later alongside fellow Tory candidate Laura Saunders. The move drew criticism from many opposition and Conservative MPs alike, who said the prime minister was too slow too act.

Speaking to The Independent, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed the prime minister for his handling of the scandal: “If they had been my candidates, they’d have been straight out of the door and their feet wouldn’t have touched the floor”

“But to wait a week, to make excuses like that, is inexcusable.”

Amongst the six Metropolitan police officers being investigated, one has been arrested – a member of Mr Sunak’s close protection team. The Met has also denied being the source of names under investigation leaked to press, calling the speculation “a poor distraction technique.”

The Gambling Commission has now expanded its investigation to look at hundreds of suspicious bets in the run up to the general election.

“These investigations are ongoing … one of them is a criminal investigation that’s being conducted by the police,” the prime minister told the BBC Question Time Leaders Special general election debate.

“What I can tell you is if anyone is found to have broken the rules, not only should they face the full consequences of the law, I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party.”

Who is involved in the betting scandal?

Craig Williams

Craig Williams, the PM’s closest parliamentary aide, was the first person caught up in the scandal. He admitted placing a bet on the election prior to Mr Sunak’s announcement after he was approached by a journalist.

The 39-year-old Tory candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr placed a £100 bet with 5-1 odds at Ladbrokes, meaning he would have won £500, but his name was raised as potentially a “politically exposed person”, so the wager was not registered.

Former MP Craig Williams (UK Parliament)
Former MP Craig Williams (UK Parliament)

That sparked the Gambling Commission writing to firms demanding the details of all bets made on a July election after 1 May, which it is now combing through. It is now believed to have widened its search beyond MPs and candidates to their friends and relatives as well.

Bookmakers are particularly cautious over “novelty” betting markets such as the general election.

According to The Guardian, which first reported the story, Mr Williams placed his bet via an online account that would have required him to provide personal details, including his date of birth and debit card. The bookmaker also knows the location of the bet.

Ladbrokes declined to comment on the incident but the Gambling Commission issued a statement confirming that it was investigating.

Mr Williams apologised after admiting that he had placed a wager on the bet, but refused to comment further while the GC carried out its probe.

“I clearly made a huge error of judgment, that’s for sure, and I apologise,” he told. “I will not be expanding on my statement because it’s an independent process.”

Laura Saunders

Laura Saunders was the second person to be named in the affair.

Tory candidate for Bristol North West, Ms Saunders is also under investigation by the Gambling Commission over claims she may have had inside knowledge about the prime minister’s decision to call a snap poll for 4 July. She has worked for the party since 2015.

Laura Saunders and Tony Lee pictured together (Supplied)
Laura Saunders and Tony Lee pictured together (Supplied)

According to the BBC, which first named Ms Saunders as the candidate under investigation, she worked most recently at the party’s international division at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, which works with other centre-right parties around the world.

Tony Lee

Tony Lee, husband of Ms Saunders, has also been implicated in the scandal. He is the Conservative Party’s director of campaigning, having worked on former West Midlands mayor Andy Street’s successful 2021 campaign.

Mr Lee stepped back from his position on June 19 following reports that he was also under investigation by the Gambling Commission alongside his wife.

Nick Mason

Nick Mason became the Tory chief data officer after unsuccessfully running for the party for Jarrow in Tyneside in the 2015. He was named by The Sunday Times as the fourth person to be investigated by the Gambling Commission.

Mr Mason is alleged to have placed dozens of bets over an unknown period, with winnings which would total thousands of pounds. He has also taken a leave of absence from his position. A spokeperson for Mr Mason has declined to comment but denies wrong doing.

Russell George

Russell George is a Tory member of Welsh parliament, representing the same constituency as Mr Williams. It was revealed by The Guardian on June 25 that he was under investigation by the gambling watchdog.

Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies said: “Russell George has informed me that he has received a letter from the Gambling Commission regarding bets on the timing of the general election.

“Russell George has stepped back from the Welsh Conservative shadow cabinet while these investigations are ongoing.”

He says that all other Conservative members of the Senedd have denied placing any bets.

Kevin Craig

Bringing the scandal to the Labour party, now-suspended candidate Kevin Craig was also confirmed to be under investigation by the gambling watchdog on June 25

Running in Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, Mr Craig had bet on himself to lose the seat on July 4. The seat was won by the Conservatives with a majority of just over 20,000 in 2019.

Former Labour candidate Kevin Craig (YouTube)
Former Labour candidate Kevin Craig (YouTube)

Releasing a statement on social media, Mr Craig said he had made a “stupid error,” adding that he intended to give his winnings to charity.

“This was a huge mistake, for which I apologise unreservedly,” he said.

“I have so much respect for how Keir Starmer has changed the Labour Party and I have been fighting so hard to win this seat and change the country alongside him.

“However, it is right that the party upholds the highest standards for its Parliamentary candidates - just as the public expects the highest standards from any party hoping to serve in government.”

Alister Jack

Conservative cabinet minister Alister Jack admitted to placing three bets on the date of the general election on June 25, saying he had made £2,100 from one of them. He later claimed his comments were “a joke”.

The minister for Scotland then backtracked, admitting that he had placed several bets before May. In April, Mr Jack says he placed a successful bet that the election would fall between July and September, after losing two similar bets made in March.

Scotland minister Alister Jack (Michal Wachucik/PA) (PA Wire)
Scotland minister Alister Jack (Michal Wachucik/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Jack has denied wrongdoing in a statement: “I had no knowledge of the date of the election until the day it was called.

“I placed no bets in May and am not under investigation by the Gambling Commission.”

Sir Phillip Davies

Sir Phillip Davies has been the Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire since 2005 and is married to cabinet minister Esther McVey. He is currently the most rebellious serving Tory MP, having voted against the government over 250 times.

On June 26, Sir Phillip was accused of placing an £8,000 bet to lose the seat he has held for nearly 20 years. He denies any wrongdoing.

“I hope to win. I’m busting a gut to win. I expect to lose. In the 2005 election, I busted a gut to win. I expected to lose,” the MP told The Sun.

“I had a bet on myself to lose in the 2005 election, and my bet went down the pan.”

“It’s nobody’s business apart from mine,” Sir Phillip said, adding that he had not done anything illegal. It is not believed that he is under investigation by the Gambling Commission.

A police officer in Rishi Sunak’s close protection team

A police officer in Mr Sunak’s close protection team was arrested and suspended over alleged bets about the timing of the general election.

The police constable from the Met’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Command was arrested on 17 June on suspicion of misconduct in public office after the betting watchdog contacted the force last Friday.

The officer was taken into custody and bailed pending further enquiries, with the case being referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, according to the Met. The force has confirmed is serving on restricted duties.

Six more police officers

On June 25, the Met confirmed that they had been informed of five more police officers placed under investigation by the Gambling Commission, raising the number to six on June 27.

In a statement, the London police force said: “The officers are based on the Royalty and Specialist Command, the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command and the Central West Basic Command Unit. None of them work in a close protection role.

“Decisions on whether they will be subject to any restrictions will be taken in due course.”

What are the rules for MPs and others on betting with inside knowledge?

Using confidential information to gain an unfair advantage when betting may constitute a criminal offence. Gamblers are not allowed to use inside information to place a bet or to instruct someone else to do so on their behalf.

They are also not allowed to pass inside information on to someone else which they use for betting.

Additionally, the MPs’ code of conduct bars members from “causing significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the house”. An MP placing a bet with inside knowledge is likely to cross this threshold.