October 21st, 2004
The head of the world’s biggest slot machine company visited Downing Street earlier this year to lobby for the relaxation of gambling laws, it emerged today.
Thomas Baker, the chairman of International Game Technology (IGT), held talks with officials at Number 10 in March.
The billion-dollar company is the world leader in slot machine design. Based in Nevada it controls 70% of the American market and could make hundreds of millions of pounds from changes to the law in Britain.
News of the meeting has emerged days after the Government announced plans for a major liberalisation of gambling.
Downing Street refused to confirm the meeting took place. A spokesman said the Government had held discussions with groups from both sides of the debate.
But the company did confirm the meeting. Connie Fox, IGT’s public relations manager, told PA News: “The meeting took place in March at Number 10 Downing Street. We have been watching the situation over there for a long time to see how this was going to play out.
“I don’t know exactly what was on the agenda for the meeting, but I would assume it was about relaxing the gambling laws.”
Under the plans announced by the Government this week huge Las Vegas-style casinos offering million-pound jackpots could be opened across Britain.
The Gambling Bill sweeps away many of the restrictions on the industry and critics fear it could lead to spiralling problems with gambling addiction.
Julie Kirkbride, the former Tory culture spokeswoman, is demanding answers from ministers about the meeting.
“I am surprised this company has access at such a high level given that there is no obvious British interest in this matter,” she told The Times.
Source: PA News