UK gambling minister John Whittingdale in conflict of interest row

John Whittingdale has been accused of having a conflict of interest.
John Whittingdale has been accused of having a conflict of interest.

It’s emerged that the daughter of British minister John Whittingdale works for a lobbying firm employed by National Lottery operator Camelot.

UK.- John Whittingdale, the government minister in charge of gambling and lotteries and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has become embroiled in a conflict of interest row surrounding his daughter’s work for a lobbying firm.

The Times reported that Alice Whittingdale works for Pagefield, a PR company that works for the current National Lottery operator, Camelot. She joined the firm in 2018 after graduating from university.

John Whittingdale took over responsibility for British gambling legislation from sports minister Nigel Huddleston in March. He is responsible for overseeing the current review of the 2005 Gambling Act and has oversight of the Gambling Commission, which is currently running a tender to select the operator for the next National Lottery licence.

He listed his daughter’s job on the parliamentary register of members’ interests, on which he described her as a “researcher”, however her profile on Pagefield’s website says she is a senior executive.

Earlier this month the Gambling Commission delayed the date for its decision regarding the fourth National Lottery licence until February 2022. It also extended Camelot’s current licence for six months until February 2024, having already extended it due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Camelot is competing in the tender against Sazka’s Allwyn and Italian lottery operator Sisal.

Campaigners now question the transparency of the process. Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the Clean Up Gambling campaign, told the Times: “Alongside the former gambling minister Hugh Robertson subsequently being appointed chair of Camelot, these revelations call into question the impartiality of an opaque process for the next lottery licence.

“There has to be appropriate scrutiny of Camelot’s poor record, and the public has a right to know what other operators bidding for the contract would do differently.”

The Gambling Commission stressed that it is running the tender independently of DCMS and said that Whittingdale has no direct involvement. Pagefield denied any conflict of interest and said that Alice Whittingdale did not work on the Camelot account.

However, transparency campaigner Dr Alex May said: “I’m astonished none of the other publicly known bidders have called out Mr Whittingdale on this.”

In this article:
gambling Gambling Commission lottery