The gambling industry can offer false hope, often to people who are vulnerable, and I had and will always have serious concerns about the impact of betting on poverty, so I found this particular attack quite astonishing. It seems I was being criticised for raising these issues with the sector, rather than refusing to engage with them.
My own family has been in the past affected by problem gambling, and that is why I, like many MPs from across the political spectrum, welcome initiatives like Gamble Aware Week. I believe the industry has a long way to go when it comes to promoting responsible gambling.
Every MP and MSP with a racecourse in their constituency are sent a badge which gains free admission to racecourses across the country, but I never used mine - this had to be declared in the register of interests at the value as if attendance at every potential race meeting throughout the year. I did receive hospitality to the Gold Cup in 2016, as did local MSP John Scott. We were both there to present prizes at the event. Ayr Racecourse is a major contributor to the Ayrshire economy, and it was my duty to support it where I could. We recently saw the negative impact to the local economy when the races had to be cancelled this year.
Sadly, the anti-gambling organisation that allegedly levelled this accusation at me, didn’t contact me with their concerns beforehand. I then offered to meet with them to discuss my work in raising awareness of and prevent gambling addiction, but received no response. Previously I had met with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, and took on board their concerns.
This story was utter nonsense. I did what every other MP and MSP from all parties did – engaged with stakeholders in your community. By now it was clear to me that there was an agenda by a third party to ensure I received negative publicity to the point stories were being manufactured with no substance. But you see – the point is – the content of the story doesn’t really matter – as long as they get a juicy headline and enough doubt put in peoples mind they’ve achieved what they set out to do.
Once again the establishment and their media machine carried out a character assassination for no other reason than to tarnish my name and you can see from the tweets and the newspaper articles they did just that!