Tory MP Philip Davies takes £500-an-hour job at slot machine company

The Guardian
Wild Casino

The Tory MP Philip Davies has got a new £500-an-hour job as a consultant for a company in the Merkur group, which is behind slot machines in hundreds of high streets across the UK.

Davies, who was recently knighted on the recommendation of Rishi Sunak, will provide “strategic advice” to Merkur Gaming, earning £1,000 a month for two hours of work in that period.

Merkur Gaming is a company in the German-owned parent group, Merkur, which is behind Britain’s second-largest network of “adult gaming centres”.

These increasingly popular venues, where customers can play £2-a-spin slot machines, are often open 24 hours a day. The Merkur gaming company that employs Davies appears to own companies that design and sell slot machines and their software.

The Guardian reported in April that a sister company within the group, which operates high street premises, was put under investigation by the Gambling Commission over its alleged exploitation of a vulnerable customer.

It was previously claimed that staff at Merkur’s Stockport branch looked on as Wendy Hughes, 64, who was being treated for lung cancer at the time, lost more than £2,000 over the course of 16 hours, spread across two days of play.

At the time, Merkur told the Guardian: “We take any allegations against our staff extremely seriously,” adding that Hughes’s case had been “fully investigated” and reported to the Gambling Commission in January.

“We have established that the customer interaction measures recommended by the Gambling Commission were fully in place,” it said. The Gambling Commission does not confirm or deny whether it is investigating individual operators.

The Merkur group’s UK slot machine premises have thrived in recent years and the company is planning to spread further across Britain, according to filings at Companies House.

Revenues – derived chiefly from punters’ losses – surged last year from £173m to £202m, although the company reported a pre-tax loss of £2m, as it invested in opening new shops that it said typically take at least a year to make a profit.

Merkur opened 38 new venues in 2023, as part of its “UK expansion project”, on top of 36 the year before, with its website showing it has more than 200 sites.

Davies’s new job was revealed in the latest register of MPs’ interests, which also shows Dominic Raab, the former deputy prime minister, is being paid £100,000 plus VAT a year by the World Gold Council to consult on a review of illegal activity in the gold market.

Davies is well known for his links with the gambling and betting industries. As well as earning £50,000 in one year advising Entain, a sport betting and gambling company, he received up to £14,713.60 of hospitality from betting and horse-racing firms over two years, including days out at Ascot and cricket Test matches.

He also has a £1,500-a-month job as a consultant on regulation and public policy for the National Pawnbroking Association.

Last year, he became co-chair of the cross-party parliamentary group on betting and gaming

Despite announcing plans to crack down on the digital slot machines sector earlier this year by reducing maximum stakes to £5, or £2 for those aged 18 to 24, the government is expected to loosen regulations governing high street slots.

Under proposals outlined as part of the government’s white paper on gambling reform, venues are likely to be allowed to stock a higher proportion of £2-a-spin machines relative to the number with maximum stakes of £1.

Philip Davies and Merkur Gaming have been contacted for comment.