Tory candidates face General Election betting investigation: What are the rules?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The allegations concern people linked to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Credit: PA

Allegations that several people linked to Rishi Sunak used inside information to bet on the date of the General Election have blighted the prime minister in recent days.

Laura Saunders, who previously worked at Conservative Campaign HQ and is the wife of the Party's director of campaigning, is among those being probed by the Gambling Commission.

The developments and use of the term "inside information" has prompted much online debate around what exactly could merit a breach of the rules. But what are they? ITV News explains.

What is inside information?

Inside information is best known in the context of the financial world, where trading with such knowledge is listed as a criminal offence in every major economy.

Essentially, it concerns knowledge that individuals outside any given industry or trade are not aware of, and which could be inappropriately used for financial gain (e.g. the placement of bets).

The Gambling Commission regards inside information as knowledge "known by an individual or individuals as a result of their role in connection with an event and which is not in the public domain".

Much of its rules and regulations are crafted around sport - which most bets relate to.

But the commission makes clear inside information can include "activity related to a non-sporting event on which bets can be placed".

Is it illegal to use inside information?

The law makes plain that a person found guilty of using inside information to bet could be considered to be cheating, which is covered under the Gambling Act 2005.

Section 42 of the legislation states that it is an offence for anyone to cheat at gambling or do anything that might assist another person to cheat.

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Cheating is categorised as consisting of "actual or attempted deception or interference".

Anyone found guilty of this offence can face up to two years in prison and a fine, and the commission has the power to prosecute those accused of breaching the rules.

How does the regulator monitor cheating?

The Gambling Commission largely relies on its sports betting integrity unit (SBIU) to monitor any cheating breaches. Again, this is because the majority of bets placed relate to sport.

The SBIU deals with reports of "betting-related corruption" and works closely with a separate team to enforce the same processes to non-sporting events.

What has the regulator and the Conservatives said?

In a statement, the Gambling Commission said: "Currently the commission is investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election.

"This is an ongoing investigation, and the commission cannot provide any further details at this time."

Rishi Sunak said Tory figures who are found to have broken gambling rules “should face the full force of the law”.

The prime minister said he was “incredibly angry to learn” of the allegations that a string of people with links to the Conservative Party or No 10 bet on the timing of the July 4 contest before he announced it.

Speaking on Thursday night's BBC Question Time leaders' special, Sunak said: "I was incredibly angry – incredibly angry – to learn of these allegations.

“It’s a really serious matter. It’s right that they’re being investigated properly by the relevant law enforcement authorities, including … a criminal investigation by the police.

“I want to be crystal clear that if anyone has broken the rules, they should face the full force of the law.”

A Conservative spokesman said: "We have been contacted by the Gambling Commission about a small number of individuals.

"As the Gambling Commission is an independent body, it wouldn't be proper to comment further, until any process is concluded."

Lawyers representing Laura Saunders said: “As the Conservative Party has already stated, investigations are ongoing.

“Ms Saunders will be co-operating with the Gambling Commission and has nothing further to add.

“It is inappropriate to conduct any investigation of this kind via the media, and doing so risks jeopardising the work of the Gambling Commission and the integrity of its investigation.

“The publication of the BBC’s story is premature and is a clear infringement of Ms Saunders’ privacy rights. She is considering legal action against the BBC and any other publishers who infringe her privacy rights.”

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