‘An open goal for illegal bookmakers’ – integrity expert warns on affordability checks.
A senior executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club who is well-versed in illegal betting has informed a global audience of racing leaders that affordability checks are providing black market bookmakers with a priceless open goal.
An Asian Racing Conference session in Melbourne featured a presentation by the HKJC’s executive manager of racing integrity and betting analysis, Tom Chignell, who discussed the unstoppable expansion of unregulated operators and their growing desire to attract racing punters.
Chignell made a direct connection between the intrusive bookmaker-imposed checks that are driving punters away from the regulated market and eating into the finances of British racing after his HKJC colleague Doug Robinson warned that illegal betting, which is frequently linked to wider crime and money laundering, represented “the number one threat to the integrity of racing.”
A member of the Asian Racing Federation Council on Anti-Illegal Betting and Related Financial Crime, Chignell stated: It seems to be a huge problem right now in the UK, in my opinion. Not only are affordability checks driving recreational gamblers away from regulated businesses, but they are also almost directly driving them to the illegal betting market.
“Can you get a bet on? Can you get fair odds? Can you bet on the sport and product you want to bet on? If you can’t, these are three major incentives to push the customers racing wants to attract – the Saturday gamblers to the illegal betting market.”
Hundreds of punters have complained to the Racing Post about being asked to hand over a slew of personal financial information to bookmakers, who have repeatedly lowered the bar at which checks are initiated out of fear of being fined by the Gambling Commission, despite repeated delays to the publication of the UK government’s white paper on gambling reform.
Racecourse Media Group revealed on Sunday that a survey of 3,500 Racing TV members found that 15% of respondents either bet or know someone who bets with an unlicensed firm. The regulator has attempted to downplay the extent to which frustrated punters are turning to the black market.
Chignell added: “The concern is that while Britain has had a diverse regulated market, and although people have sometimes struggled to get bets on with bookmakers because they have been successful and therefore had to spread money across the regulated market, you now have reports of people in betting shops being asked for financial information like three months of bank statements. People don’t want to do that, which means this is a real opportunity for the illegal market to target those individuals.
“When the last Asian Racing Conference took place in South Africa three years ago, there were a few smaller operators who had started offering fixed odds on horseracing. That number is growing and we are now seeing more significant Asian-facing companies doing it. Those companies are being given an open goal to make inroads into what was a regulated market.”
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