Cheltenham Festival
Tickets from bookmakers and the Jockey Club were disclosed in the Commons' register of interests Getty

Thousands of punters had to fork out their hard-earned cash to attend two of the biggest horse racing meets of 2016. But it has emerged that some lucky MPs were given almost £6,000 ($8,6010 ) worth of freebies for the Cheltenham Festival in March and Aintree, where the famous Grand National race was run on 8 April.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson declared more than £3,700 worth of hospitality and tickets for the meets on the House of Commons' register of interests. The gifts were from bookmakers, including Gala Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill, and course owner the Jockey Club.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing from Robertson, who is the joint chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on racing and bloodstock, and the Tewkesbury MP stressed that the Cheltenham Racecourse lies within his Gloucestershire constituency.

"There are a number of important issues being discussed at government level relating to the financing of horse racing, mainly in connection to the horse race betting levy," Robertson told IBTimes UK.

"The government is proposing extending the Levy to overseas operators who take bets in the UK, and there have also been discussions surrounding a 'racing right'. There is no clear agreement between racing and bookmakers (they are not one and the same) on the former and absolutely no agreement between them on the latter. I have not supported or opposed either proposal, though I obviously need to be briefed and up to date on the proposals."

The MP said he will be bringing all sides of the argument together at charity racing dinner he is organising. "This will be the sixth such dinner I've personally arranged and have raised around £200,000 for racing-related charities in the last five years," he explained.

Fellow Conservative Philip Davies registered more than £1,500 worth of hospitality and tickets from Ladbrokes and Gala Coral for the Cheltenham Festival. "This is hardly a revelation," the Shipley MP told IBTimes UK. "All of these things are on the public record and are properly registered and declared in the House of Commons register of interests for everyone to see"

Labour MP John Mann also registered £486 worth of tickets and hospitality from Ladbrokes for the Cheltenham Festival. "The general public is entitled to know everything that MPs do and these things should therefore be put on the public record," he told IBTimes UK.

Racecourse Association badges

Salmond interview
SNP's Alex Salmond IBT Media

Elsewhere, the Racecourse Association told IBTimes UK that they provide badges to the officers of the APPG on racing.

The passes entitle the bearer to admittance of certain race meetings in the UK during 2016. Former SNP leader Alex Salmond and Robertson have registered their badges on the register of interests.

"Mr Salmond is a member of the Racecourse Association. He was given a metal badge that allows the holder admittance to certain race meetings," a spokesman for the Gordon MP told IBTimes UK.

"However, due to Mr Salmond's busy parliamentary schedule, he has not had any time at all this last year to use it. Therefore, the badge, in practical terms, represents no monetary value to Mr Salmond."

Davies, another member of the APPG, said he had not registered his badge after taking guidance from the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

"The badge to which you refer has no value to register according to the BHA and ROA when I asked them for declaration purposes. Given that I have only used it twice in over one year it has clearly fallen a long way below the declaration threshold," he told IBTimes UK.

Co-chair of the APPG on racing, Sir Alan Meale, and fellow Labour MP Grahame Morris, who is also a member of the group, had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.