Jumps icon Nicky Henderson calls affordability checks ‘terrifying and ridiculous’.
Jumps legend Nicky Henderson is the latest high-profile figure to condemn the intrusive affordability checks, which have the potential to cost British racing millions of pounds. Henderson has characterised the practices as irrational and called them lunacy.
John Gosden, Henderson’s Flat counterpart, recently expressed his concerns that the checks would force people to bet on the black market, which “would spell disaster” for betting and racing.
That was followed this week by Harry Herbert, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s well-connected racing manager, saying the industry could be “ripped to pieces” by the checks. The checks involve bookmakers asking punters for bank statements and other financial information under pressure from the Gambling Commission.
Before the government’s long-awaited gambling review was released, the industry regulator was widely criticised for successfully implementing the contentious checks.
Henderson, a six-time champion trainer who has devoted much of his life to the sport, has now entered the discussion, slamming the checks and empathising with those impacted.
He told the Racing Post: “It’s ridiculous and appears to be an invasion of privacy. There’s no doubt it’s having a drastic impact on punters and I have every sympathy with them. I’m in total agreement with what everyone has been saying.
“The money people bet on racing flows back into the sport, so we’re all losers in this. It doesn’t bear thinking about the dangers of the black market, but that’s where punters could be driven back to.
“I’ve no experience of this because I don’t bet and nobody has ever asked me for statements, but that’s not the point and I wouldn’t like it if I was asked for all sorts of information and had to go through that examination before having a bet.”
Henderson, whose late father Johnny is credited with saving Cheltenham from redevelopers in the 1960s, is behind some of the biggest names in jump racing, like Sprinter Sacre, a powerful chaser, and Constitution Hill, the most recent pin-up boy.
He backs campaigns for responsible gambling, but he thinks that the new methods for determining a person’s ability to bet go too far.
“The damage it could do is really frightening,” he added. “We’ve got enough problems on our hands in the industry and don’t need this. It’s lunacy, sheer lunacy. I read what John Gosden and Harry Herbert have said in the Racing Post and go along with it – like everyone would. It’s absolutely crackers and it’s terrifying to think of the damage to racing’s finances.
“You can’t blame punters – I wouldn’t want to go through that and I don’t see why they should. There is a point in preventing people from getting into trouble and that’s very important. But, at the same time, these checks and what they’ll lead to are terrifying.”
When it is released in the coming weeks, it is anticipated that the government’s long-delayed gambling review white paper will include suggestions regarding affordability checks.
Paul Scully, the minister in charge of gambling, indicated that he was in favor of “frictionless” checks to assist in preventing people from suffering harm from gambling. He also stated that he did not believe that the government or the Gambling Commission had the authority to tell people how much they could afford to gamble.
Scully met with members of the Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) this week to talk about restrictions and a minimum bet guarantee, as well as affordability checks and their impact on punters and the horse racing industry.
Benjamin Fellows, on behalf of the HBF, said: “We felt it was a constructive meeting and the tone echoed that of his speech at the Betting and Gaming Council AGM last week.
“We welcomed the opportunity to engage with the minister and to seek that horseracing bettors’ interests are appropriately considered in the forthcoming white paper. We hope that the dialogue will continue following the white paper’s publication.”
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