UK members of Parliament have slammed the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) for their decision to allow a prominent bookmaking company to head an online betting review.

The Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm, Carolyn Harris, said that the decision to allow GVC, which owns both Ladbrokes and Coral, to lead an investigation into VIP programmes related to online betting was both ‘woefully naïve’ and a conflict of interest. Fellow MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is also a member of the Group, said the decision was bizarre:

“The Gambling Commission needs to be reformed. This really does show you where the thinking has gone completely wrong. It’s like putting the mafia in charge of looking into organised crime.”

The working group, led by GVC, is set to examine the ways that incentives are used in VIP programmes, and the extent to which they contradict the cause of safer gambling. But the decision to appoint GVC to the role comes just a few months after they issued a £5.9 million fine to Ladbrokes Coral for their failure to protect vulnerable customers.

Speaking on You and Yours, on Radio Four, one woman said that she was given VIP status by a number of bookmakers, at a stressful time of her life when she had turned to gambling. She said she was regularly contacted by gambling companies. At one point, she said that Coral offered her free football tickets and when she turned them down, they gave her a free £200 bet.

In its decision last year, the UKGC criticised Ladbrokes Coral for their failures to protect gamblers, and their promotional practices. In response to the MPs’ criticism, they said that there were many operators involved in the process of reviewing the use of VIP programmes, and that all of those firms were aware that they had to make quick progress on the issue.

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