Political betting controversy

A man walks into a betting shop or uses a gambling website and places a £100 bet on the date of the general election. Three days later, the Prime Minister names the day, and the man wins his bet.


On the face of it, this is unremarkable. People bet on all kinds of things: who will score the first goal, whether it will snow on Christmas Day, and so on.


But this gambler was Craig Williams, who just happened to be a senior adviser to the Prime Minister and is now running as a Conservative candidate in a bid to be elected to parliament.


Mr Williams refused to answer questions about whether he had any inside information when he placed the bet.


He said: “I will not be expanding on my statement because it’s an independent process. The gambling commission are looking at it now.”


The Prime Minister described news of the bet as “very disappointing” but repeatedly refused to comment on whether Mr Williams knew about the election date when he placed the wager, saying this would not be appropriate while the Gambling Commission’s independent inquiry was ongoing.


If someone does have inside knowledge and uses that to win a bet, is there any potential criminal liability?


The offence of cheating


Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005 makes it an offence to cheat at gambling.


To cheat [and defraud] is to act with deliberate dishonesty to the prejudice of another person’s proprietary right, which in the context of gambling means defeating the element of chance.

So, there can be no doubt at all that a person with insider knowledge of the date of a general election, who then places a bet, is at risk of being prosecuted.


The offence carries a maximum term of imprisonment of two years.