Senior gambling industry figures have apologised for "aggressively" lobbying a senior politician for private meetings when he began an inquiry into the regulation of betting terminals.

SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, convener of Holyrood's Local Government Committee, said the betting industry has been all over him "like a rash" since the committee launched its inquiry into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

When he rebuffed their advances and advised them to contribute to the public scrutiny, he said the response from industry body Senet was "aggressive".

William Hill then sent a representative to track Mr Stewart down at the SNP conference in Aberdeen last month, the MSP said.

During heated exchanges at the committee, William Hill director of regulatory affairs Andrew Lyman said Mr Stewart was "probably right" to say no.

John Heaton, chief executive of Scotbet, apologised on Senet's behalf for the perception that they were being "overly aggressive".

The committee also heard claims from the head of London's biggest casino, who opposes betting shop terminals, that algorithms ostensibly used to identify problem gambling are being used for marketing to pressurise gamblers into spending more money.

Mr Stewart said: "I had never heard of Senet until recently, until suddenly they wanted to talk to me.

"I wonder why that is. A cynic would maybe say it was because we were conducting this inquiry - and on this occasion I am a cynic.

"When I said, 'No, not until after this inquiry was dealt with, because everyone has the opportunity to put in written submissions and may be called to give evidence', the response was fairly aggressive."

Mr Heaton said: "I apologise for the reaction that you appear to have got from Senet.

"We have tried to make sure that it is an independent organisation. The board are all independent, the management are independent.

"If you feel they are being overly aggressive then we will certainly take that back to them."

Mr Stewart said: "Does the betting industry understand the term 'no'?

"None of your industry has been really interested in what I've had to say previously, and then suddenly they're all over you like a rash.

"When I said no, your folk don't quit do they?"

Mr Lyman said: "I think it's probably right that you said no because you have to remain objective."

Mr Stewart said: "Why is it then, when I said no to William Hill, that during the course of my party conference in Aberdeen one of your folk went out their way to try to find me?"

Mr Lyman said: "I wasn't at that particular event so I don't know, but I can see that you are objectively chairing this particular committee."

Simon Thomas, chief executive of London's Hippodrome Casino, compared FOBT advocates to tobacco firms which persistently disputed the link between smoking and lung cancer.

He said: "I'm sure the bookmakers are putting a lot of money into algorithms, but the algorithms are used to promote the business.

"I joined, as M Mouse and D Duck, two of the bookmakers, gave my phone number and email address, and I am bombarded daily with adverts and pressure to spend money offers.

"Additionally, the staff who are supposed to carry out all of this supervision and player interaction following any algorithm popping up from behind their bandit screen, some of the bookmakers are actually incentivised on the machine's performance.

"So aside from being minimum wage, late at night, often female with a lot of things to do, they're also told they will get more money if the machines take more money. It doesn't add up."