According to the findings of the survey, affordability checks pose a “significant threat” to black market betting.
Racecourse Media Group conducted a major survey and found that 15% of respondents either bet or know someone who bets with a black market bookmaker. As affordability checks drove punters away from the sport, Racecourse Media Group observed a “material decline” in betting turnover on the sport last year.
As he presented the findings of a survey that was conducted among 3,500 RTV members, Martin Stevenson, chief executive of RMG, which is the parent company of Racing TV and manages the media rights of 35 British racecourses, detailed the decline in revenue.
The Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, claimed in the Racing Post the previous day that his organisation had not mandated the implementation of affordability checks, which are anticipated to be included in some capacity in the government’s long-awaited gambling review white paper.
Bookmakers assert that the regulator’s expectation that businesses take into account the financial circumstances of their customers when assessing risk forced them to adopt the contentious checks.
Stevenson said: “The widespread response to the Racing TV survey shows how much the ongoing Gambling Act Review, combined with their recent experiences, is affecting our members.
“Our survey revealed that 15 per cent of respondents bet, or know someone that bets, with an unregulated bookmaker, which is of real concern. With millions of customers betting on racing, the findings of this survey indicate that hundreds of thousands of punters are potentially using the black market.
“This survey is clear evidence that shows that the black market is real and substantial and suggests that affordability checks are having the effect of moving a significant number of affected punters out of the UK-regulated environment and exposing them to potential harm.
“This must be a Pyrrhic victory and the opposite of what affordability checks set out to achieve.”
Four-fifths of those polled said they would not like to see bookmakers impose limits, and 92% said they would think about using a different bookmaker if they were not required to provide any personal information.
“We have shared this information with the Gambling Commission and hope they can take account of this in their assessment of the black market,” added Stevenson. “The evidence suggests it exists and is only building.
“Nearly a quarter [22 per cent] responded ’yes’ to the question on whether they had been asked for personal information, with 50 per cent refusing to comply. This is a strikingly high percentage, demonstrating consumers’ rejection of this intrusion on their leisure activity.
“The inference that 22 per cent of racing punters are at risk of harm is very challenging to believe and appears excessive when compared against the overall prevalence of problem gambling.
“In addition, RMG has seen a material decline in online betting turnover on horseracing in 2022. Everyone involved in the industry should be deeply concerned. The impact of affordability checks is that the sport is suffering a heavy financial toll.”
When gambling minister Paul Scully, who had criticised affordability checks, was moved as part of a government reshuffle, it was bad news for racing. Stevenson said, “I hope that the new minister with responsibility for horseracing and gambling will also consider the results of this survey as part of the ongoing work on the Gambling Act Review.
“It has been long overdue, in this process, to consider the attitudes of the consumers themselves in regard to how they choose to spend their time and money. I was very glad to hear the former minister acknowledge that in his recent speech.
“Applying universal limits does not recognise the wide range of natural betting behaviours, events, seasonality or differing individual financial circumstances. The undoubted highlight of the jumps season, the upcoming Cheltenham Festival – which is the major focus for many punters – is clearly a case in point. To that end, I was pleased to see the former minister stating that a one-size-fits-all approach was not the intention.”
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