Blackpool South MP Scott Benton responds to gambling industry gifts and 'fat-shaming' accusation
Resort MP Scott Benton said his 'fat-shaming' tweet to a labour councillor was "light-hearted," and his push for a super casino and promotion of high street bookies had no connection to his receipt of freebie sports tickets from gambling firms.
The MPs’ register of interests revealed Mr Benton accepted £7,494.60 in tickets and hospitality for major sporting events during June and July.
He took hospitality at Royal Ascot, worth £1,400, from the Betting and Gaming Council, and a ticket and hospitality for Wimbledon worth £1,100 from Gibraltar firm Entain Operations.
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 versus Denmark semi-final worth £3,457 from Entain Operations, and the same at the England versus Czech Republic game worth £1,537.60 from online casino and bingo firm Gamesys Group.
Mr Benton told The Gazette his gifts from the gambling industry had not prompted his push for a super casino and that, while being filmed outside bookies William Hill in South Shore by the Betting and Gaming Council, he “was not promoting high street betting shops”.
He was filmed saying “[They’ve] been closed for much of the last 12 months because of Covid but now they’re open and customers can safely go in and put bets on a whole range of different sports.
“This is of course giving millions of pounds back to the Treasury to help the UK spend money on vital public services, as well as supporting key sports including horse racing, greyhounds and lower league football.”
But Mr Benton claimed: “I’ve never urged people to go out and put a bet on or support betting shops.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say I was promoting high street betting shops or urging people to support them.
“I said that betting shops are a key part of the high street and they encourage people to go out and spend locally and are as much a valid part of the high street as any other business. That is true.”
In relation to Mr Benton’s plea to culture secretary John Whittingdale to review the case for a super casino in the resort, which came the same day he received freebie tickets to the Euro 2020 semi-final, the MP said the two were unrelated.
“There is no connection, I’ve long been in favour of a regional casino in Blackpool,” he said.
Mr Benton added that his 'fat-shaming' tweet to Blackpool labour councillor David Collett was "light-hearted."
The MP came under fire by Coun Collett yesterday evening (Thursday, July 15) after the councillor's criticism of the gambling industry gifts declared on Mr Benton's register of interests prompted a 'fat-shaming' response.
Coun Collett said Mr Benton had reverted to "playground bullying" in the wake of criticism.
Mr Collett tweeted: "Scott gets a free ticket to the Euros from a gambling company and suddenly Blackpool needs a new casino, priceless. Greggs once gave me a free pasty so I’ve sold the town hall to the Great British Bake-off."
In response, Mr Benton tweeted: "More than one free pasty I expect by the looks of it."
Coun Collett, who is also a trainee oncology nurse at Blackpool Vic, said he was "fat-shamed" by the MP and branded the retort "playground bullying."
But Mr Benton, who is co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary group on eating disorders, said it was a "light-hearted" response.
Mr Benton told the Gazette: "David is an elected labour councillor, and he makes frequent comments on my social media pages, some of which I've found unhelpful and offensive.
"As an elected councillor himself he is used to the rough-and-tumble of politics. My comment was light-hearted in response to something he tweeted himself. If elected representatives are going to engage with me on Twitter, they have to be used to a light-hearted response.
"I am the chairman of the APPG for eating disorders, we've done huge amounts of work in that area."
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