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Guardian journalist barred from gambling industry event given pass after Press Gazette investigates

A Guardian journalist denied a press pass for a major gambling industry exhibition until Press Gazette got in touch with organisers has shared suspicions he was barred over his past coverage of the event.

Rob Davies, pictured collecting the Business Journalist of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards last month, applied for accreditation to attend ICE London at the Excel exhibition centre next week as press.

His application was turned down last week with a message saying his details did not meet the press criteria. When he rang the PR company running the accreditations he was told press passes were “only for B2B media”.

But just hours after Press Gazette contacted exhibition organisers Clarion Events and their PR firm today for comment on the ban, Davies received an email saying his application had been approved.

Davies told Press Gazette: “They were saying it’s a trade show and the kind of conversations national newspapers want to have about gambling aren’t the kind of conversations people at that trade show want to be having in that kind of forum.

The company claimed it was their media policy not to have national newspapers cover the event.

But Davies, who is writing a book about the gambling industry, said he knew of at least one national journalist who had been granted a press pass.

He said it was “hard for me not to think this has something to do with” a story he wrote in 2018 about the event, which resulted in new sexual harassment and clothing policies being introduced.

He reported that hostesses claimed to have been “harassed and propositioned” and that attendees were entertained by pole dancers and a Playboy-themed show. ICE London told the paper it had been working “to encourage respectful representation of women on exhibition stands”.

Davies added that he believed his “general coverage” of the gambling industry could also have contributed.

After first tweeting about his ban, saying it was “not a good look for the industry”, Davies was inundated with messages from exhibitors who offered to bring him as a guest.

He took up one of the offers, and suggested the organisers may also have heard about this before eventually granting him a press pass.

Davies said he was previously told by Clarion Events they have had a B2B media policy for a couple of years and that they were unable to amend it so soon before the event and without consulting the exhibitors.

But they told him there would be a wider review of their media registration processes later this year, including whether more access should be granted to non-trade publications.

Clarion Events was also the organiser for an arms fair in September that barred two UK journalists on the grounds that they were at capacity and priority needed to be given to specialist correspondents.

One of the journalists, Middle East Eye’s Ian Cobain, later uncovered emails that showed organisers discussing how to proceed with his application, with a member of the media accreditation team saying they “suspect he will not write anything positive”.

Clarion Events confirmed that Davies had been given press accreditation.

Picture: The Photo Team/Press Gazette

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