Huge spike in bets on day before Sunak announced election

Huge spike in bets on day before Rishi Sunak announced election
Huge spike in bets on day before Rishi Sunak announced election

A flood of bets was placed on a July election the day before it was announced by Rishi Sunak, data reveal.

A gambling row is engulfing the Tories as several senior Conservatives are facing official investigations by the gambling watchdog over allegations that they placed bets on the July date before it was public.

Analysis of data provided by bookmakers shows more than £2,700 was wagered in the space of a few hours on May 21, including some individual bets of over £400.

At just after 5.15pm the next day the Prime Minister, who had previously suggested he was planning for an autumn poll, shocked the nation by calling the contest on July 4.

Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has taken a “leave of absence” while he is investigated over an alleged bet on the date of the election, and his wife, Laura Saunders, an MP candidate, is also facing an inquiry by the gambling watchdog.

Craig Williams, a senior aide to Mr Sunak and an MP candidate, bet £100 on the election date just before it was called and is also under investigation.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has said that Mr Sunak must publicly reveal who in his party had knowledge about the date he was planning to call.

Analysis of betting patterns on Betfair Exchange reveal the unusual flurry of wagers placed on a July date in the hours leading up to the Prime Minister’s announcement.

More bets of over £25 were placed on May 21 than in the entire period leading up to the calling of the election, with 14 of them worth £50 or more.

At just after midday a bet of around £400 was made on the snap summer election, despite the odds of it happening at that point being just 8/1.

At 4pm another wager of £425 was placed, by which time the odds had halved to 4/1.

Of the £6,027 worth of bets placed on a July date, some £3,594 was wagered in the five days leading up to the announcement and £2,742 on the day before.

Up until the days before Mr Sunak’s big reveal on May 22, the wagers had come in dribs and drabs, which suggests ordinary punters taking a flutter.

The analysis will raise further awkward questions for the Tories whose campaign risks being further derailed by the growing row over the betting scandal.

The Prime Minister is now under pressure to suspend the two candidates being investigated.

Mr Williams is Mr Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary and reportedly waged £100 on the date of the election just three days before it was called.

He has admitted that he had a “flutter” on the election date a few weeks ago and has apologised for a “huge error of judgment”.

On Thursday it was reported by the BBC that Ms Saunders is also being looked at by the Gambling Commission over an election bet.

A solicitor for Ms Saunders said she was cooperating with the inquiry.

Labour demanded that the Prime Minister suspend both candidates, with Sir Keir accusing him of a “lack of leadership” by failing to act.

A police officer working in Mr Sunak’s close protection team has also been arrested as part of an inquiry into bets placed on the timing of the election.

The Conservative Party has confirmed that it has been contacted by the gambling watchdog about “a small number of individuals” alleged to have placed bets.

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission said the body is “investigating the possibility of offences concerning the date of the election”.

“We are not confirming or denying the identity of any individuals involved in this investigation,” he added.