The UK casino industry made a large contribution to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) after the privately funded non-profit free-market think tank published a gambling policy report that called for some of the restrictions imposed on the local casino sector to be lifted.
A donation amounting to £8,000 to the IEA was officially confirmed by the National Casino Industry Forum (NCIF). The Guardian has revealed that some of the Forum’s senior officials had a meeting with the report’s author before it was written, and then, at the time when the report was finished, they got some feedback before its launch. Then, the report was made public as a discussion paper compiled by the IEA but the fact that UK casino owners had been involved in any way was not mentioned at all.
According to the report in question, further regulation of the industry was obstructing the way for more casinos to operate. The Institute of Economic Affairs’ report further noted that there was no evident reason to block at least one small casino from being hosted by reasonably-sized towns or cities. The NCIF, on the other hand, believed that the report could be a more effective way to make the local institutions, authorities and the wider public hear its message and had also agreed to increase the budget it provided the think tank with earlier.
The confirmed money donation, however, raised some questions about the influence that the local casino industry could have bought on bodies that should have been unbiased on such matters. The local Labour Party scolded the Institute of Economic Affairs for its engagement in “extensive lobbying and controversial political campaign activity” saying that policy was followed as part of the think tank’s plan to pursue specific policy goals.
Could the Independence of Think Tank’s Report Be Flawed?
The non-profit think tank confirmed that anyone outside the IEA had been given access to the report before the latter has been published and denied that any of the conclusions made in the report had been pushed or influenced as a result of the contributions made.
The information of the donation became public after The Guardian revealed the IEA’s policy to offer some potential contributors with US farming interests access to civil servants and government representatives as it raised some funds for a new research aimed at promoting the so-called free-trade deals that have been backed by uncompromising BREXIT supporters.
A meeting between a US contributor whose organisation has promised to invest £35,000 and Steve Baker, who was the BREXIT minister at the time, was arranged by the Institute of Economic Affairs.
An investigation was announced by The Charity Commission after some concerns about the think tank’s political independence have been raised. Alyson White, a Government’s lobbyist, promised to initiate her own investigation on these IEA practices. Ms. White also revealed that an inquiry on whether the think tank, which has been created as an educational non-profit body, should be actually registered as a lobbying body.
The IEA denied all rumours of a charity law breach, with its director Mark Littlewood commenting that contributors are not able to affect the results and conclusions of such a research in any way. The NCIF, on the other hand, also denied any involvement in the research results, and said it had not commissioned or paid for the report. As explained by the Forum, the decision for the donation was made after the report had already been launched.