‘The government’s feet should be held to the fire’

 

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher has called for the UK government to adhere to its promise of frictionless financial checks on gamblers and not increase their intrusiveness.

On Thursday, the government unveiled a gambling white paper, which included proposals for “background checks” at thresholds of £125 in net losses per month or £500 per year, with enhanced checks set at £1,000 in losses in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.

The government estimated that only 3% of customers would face more detailed checks, with these conducted via credit reference agencies or open banking. Requests for documents would be a last resort.

Dugher admitted gamblers were likely to be anxious about the changes, however.

“It’s okay for the government to say only a minority of customers will be impacted by this. Unfortunately Racing Post readers fear they are in that minority and the government is talking about them.

“We need to hold government’s feet to the fire when we take this forward that this genuinely means no disruption to the customer experience, that documents are only ever going to be a last resort, that this frictionless system should replace the need for documents and there shouldn’t be spending caps. This shouldn’t be intrusive.

“It’s not for me to do the government’s job for it in explaining its own proposals but I do think the government needs to do a better job in explaining its own proposals. I think this is a good white paper but terrible presentation and I fear the government is in danger of losing the argument with racing punters.”

The white paper revealed that British racing could see its income from the levy, media rights and sponsorship fall by up to £14.9m per year as a result of the proposed checks.

Dugher said: “Racing is undoubtedly going to take a hit here, as we have consistently warned. I think that is regrettable. One of the issues around this is the extent to which racing is being listened to by the politicians. What I would like to see is racing continue to work with us in the months ahead because there is a symbiotic relationship between betting and racing and I think we need to work very closely together on the shared challenges that we face in terms of the future of the sport.”

The government also stated that it was reviewing the levy, considering whether to extend it to overseas races, increase its contribution and convert it to a turnover-based model from gross profits.

Dugher said: “We will work closely with racing on levy reform but it is not the panacea that some people think it is. This great sport of ours faces huge challenges. So I think there needs to be a fundamental look at what we can do together to improve the long-term financial health of the sport.”

Dugher criticised the white paper’s tone, stating that he was unhappy with culture secretary Lucy Frazer’s assertion that “the temptation to gamble is now everywhere in society”.

“I am not sure how responsible it was to indulge in some of the moral alarmism that we had around the white paper,” he said, “echoes of the religious right with talk about temptation is everywhere. Occasionally politicians do themselves no favours and can reveal just how out of touch they are.”

He added: “There could also have been more acknowledgement of the economic contribution the industry makes. The secretary of state said we pay millions in tax – well we actually we pay billions in tax. There are 110,000 people in this country whose jobs depend on the betting industry and there was not a single word in the secretary of state’s statement to acknowledge that.”

Ian Proctor, chair of the UK & Ireland division of Flutter Entertainment, which owns Paddy Power, Betfair and Sky Bet, agreed with Dugher’s concerns.

He said: “Somewhere lost in all of this is that there are millions of people who enjoy doing this, this is our fun and I think that balance didn’t really come out yesterday. There are millions of people who have a bet every weekend and it’s really key that we make sure that whatever we do next that we are not interfering with people’s enjoyment in life, that’s really important.”

The white paper also suggested that £29m in reserves held by the Levy Board could be used to offset racing’s financial losses while the levy was under review, but the British Horseracing Authority objected that this was not an appropriate use of the funds.

Levy Board chief executive Alan Delmonte said: “We will be holding discussions with DCMS on the white paper, the projections of its financial impact and on the levy review process. The board will consider everything in the round first when it takes decisions in June about expenditure for the rest of 2023, and then later in the year for 2024.”

 

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The UK government’s white paper on gambling regulation, released in 2020, is a mixed bag of proposals that aim to protect vulnerable individuals while safeguarding the rights of responsible gamblers. While some recommendations are proportionate, others are unclear and vague, and the paper has been criticised for attempting to have its cake and eat it too.

One area of contention is affordability checks, which have been a subject of debate for months. Ordinary bettors dislike these checks, which they see as intrusive and an infringement on personal spending decisions. The racing industry has also expressed concerns that these checks could drive responsible punters away and cause a drop in revenue for the sport.

The white paper includes two tiers of affordability checks. The first tier, called a ‘financial vulnerability check’, is triggered by a loss of £125 a month or £500 a year and includes open-source background checks. The second tier, called ‘enhanced spending checks’, is triggered by a loss of £1,000 in a 24-hour period or £2,000 over 90 days and includes credit reference agency checks. However, the details of how these checks will work in practice remain unclear, and bookmakers may interpret the results inconsistently.

The white paper focuses on online betting, but it is unclear what will happen to bricks and mortar bookies, which have already been conducting affordability checks for months. Additionally, the paper raises questions about implementation and interpretation, leaving many frustrated and uncertain.

While the outcome of the review will likely be a more restrictive regulatory environment for punters, it is not the ruinous fate that anti-betting campaigners sought. However, bookmakers must reflect on their mistakes and use this moment as a watershed, ensuring that the excesses of the past are consigned to history. Racing must also value its core customer, the punter, and defend their interests if it wants to preserve the vital source of revenue that betting provides.

The white paper is not the end of the matter, as the right to bet will continue to come under scrutiny in the years ahead. The fundamental question of whether the state is justified in interfering in how people spend their own money remains unanswered.

 

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On Thursday, the UK government released its long-awaited gambling white paper, outlining proposals for reform in the industry. However, concerns have been raised by the British racing governing body, the BHA, about the effectiveness of the proposed financial risk checks.

The measures include background checks for issues such as county court judgements at a £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year. A second tier of checks, which might indicate harmful binge gambling or sustained unaffordable losses, would come in at proposed thresholds of a £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days.

Ministers have claimed that the checks would be “frictionless” and conducted online by credit reference agencies or through other means such as open banking, with documentation asked for as a last resort. The government claimed that around eight in ten players would not undergo the checks, and only around three per cent of the highest-spending accounts would have more detailed checks.

Speaking after the white paper was released, BHA chief executive Julie Harrington expressed concerns about how unobtrusive and friction-free the checks would be. Harrington said the sport would do its own due diligence to see if the three per cent of punters subject to more detailed checks would be mirrored among racing’s customers.

She said: “In terms of the impact, the numbers around £1,000 and £2,000 are probably as we anticipated. The number around the less-intrusive checks of £125 is much lower.”

She added: “The big unknown for us at the moment is how unobtrusive and friction-free those checks are.”

Harrington said the sport would do its own due diligence to see if the three per cent of punters subject to more detailed checks would be mirrored among racing’s customers.

She added: “Our suspicion is that there will be a higher value punter in there so we would be more impacted than the average.”

The subject of affordability checks has been one of the most controversial aspects of the government’s gambling review, with campaigners having called for punters to have to prove they could afford gambling losses of as low as £100 a month. British racing’s leadership has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances.

Other proposals contained in the white paper include a statutory levy on gambling operators to help fund treatment services and research of problem gambling. The Gambling Commission will receive extra powers to tackle black market operators, and a new industry ombudsman will be created to deal with disputes and rule on redress where a customer suffers losses due to an operator failing in their player protection duties.

New stake limits for online slots games of between £2 and £15 per spin will be brought in to mirror those found in bricks-and-mortar premises. The stakes had previously been unlimited.

However, campaigners who had hoped for bans on gambling advertising and sponsorship in sport will have been left disappointed. The government launched its gambling review in December 2020 with a call for evidence, which resulted in 16,000 responses.

The BHA has warned that blanket affordability checks would be “highly damaging” to its finances, while Arena Racing Company estimated last year that the sport was losing £40 million per annum from checks already put in place by bookmakers involving requests for personal financial information such as bank statements.

The government also revealed that a review of the levy, British racing’s central funding system, had commenced. It had originally been set to happen by 2024.

It had been expected that the government would set the rate at one per cent of the industry’s gross profits, which could raise as much as £140 million. However, the rate will be subject to further consultation.

Announcing the government’s proposals, culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets. It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen.

“So we are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and education, player protection checks and new online slots stake limits.

“This will strengthen the safety net and help deliver our long-term plan to help build stronger communities while allowing millions of people to continue to play safely.”

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said he welcomed the publication of the white paper.

Dugher said: “We need time to consider the full detail and impacts of these proposals, but it is important to recognise the BGC has worked closely with government to deliver a wide-ranging package of balanced, proportionate and effective reforms.”

He added: “Our members generate £7.1 billion for the economy and raise £4.2 billion in tax every year, and the measures announced today should protect jobs and sustain that vital contribution, while also building on our own work to drive world-leading standards in safer gambling.”

Gambling review white paper: the main proposals

 

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After several delays, the UK government’s gambling white paper is set to be published today.

The paper will outline proposals to modernise the regulation of the gambling sector to fit the digital age. It will reportedly include a review of British racing’s levy system and plans for affordability checks on gamblers. The government launched its gambling review in December 2020 but ministerial changes have caused repeated delays to the publication of the white paper.

The review is expected to include measures such as a reduction in stakes for online slot games to match those found in land-based gambling, the creation of a gambling ombudsman to deal with customer complaints, and a statutory levy on gambling operators to pay for research, education, and treatment of problem gambling.

Of particular interest to the racing industry is what the white paper will contain on the controversial subject of affordability checks. The industry’s leadership believes that these checks are already costing the sport tens of millions of pounds in revenue due to requests for personal financial information from customers such as bank statements. However, recent press reports suggest that the proposals will be less intrusive and more akin to credit checks.

The Premier League’s recent announcement of a voluntary ban on gambling sponsorship from the front of matchday shirts means that stringent measures such as a ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship are not expected to be included in the white paper. The Premier League has also said that it is working with other sports on the development of a new gambling sponsorship code, which could be among the proposals.

 

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According to a report in The Sun, the government’s long-awaited gambling review white paper is set to include proposals for levy reform. The levy, which is currently based on a percentage of bookmaker profits on British racing and yielded £97.6 million in 2021-22, is due to be reviewed by 2024. However, sport’s leadership has been calling for the review to be brought forward and for the levy system to be reformed to extend its reach to betting on all global racing as well as adjusting it to be based on turnover rather than profits to boost income.

The Sun report also stated that betting on horseracing is set to face higher taxes under the new review to ensure proper funding for the sport. The government launched the gambling review in December 2020, and the resulting white paper is expected to be published after parliament returns from the Easter recess on April 17.

The white paper is also expected to include measures such as affordability checks, with operators set to carry out “credit checks” alongside duties to look for signs of unaffordable losses. It is also reported that people under 25 would be unable to gamble more than £2 per spin on online slots, although older punters would be allowed to stake up to £15, a higher figure than expected. Other measures include a statutory levy on operators to pay for problem gambling research, education and treatment, and the creation of a gambling ombudsman to deal with customer complaints.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer is quoted as saying that the proposals are “targeted to protect people who are at risk of addiction, catastrophic loss and harm, with minimal disruption to the majority.” However, a spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport refused to comment on the report, stating that the government is determined to protect those most at risk of gambling-related harm and is working to finalize the details of the review.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Scott Benton has had the party whip withdrawn following a sting by The Times newspaper in which he was filmed offering to lobby ministers on behalf of fake gambling industry investors who had offered him a fee of up to £4,000. The Times reported that Benton had told undercover reporters he could leak a copy of the gambling white paper before it was published. Benton is the chair of the Parliamentary All-Party Betting and Gaming Group, although such groups are informal and have no official status in parliament.

The government’s gambling review has been eagerly anticipated by the industry, with calls for reform growing in recent years due to concerns over problem gambling and the impact of gambling advertising. The introduction of tighter regulations and increased taxation could have significant implications for the industry, particularly for online operators who have seen a surge in business during the pandemic.

Overall, the government’s proposals for gambling reform are expected to be far-reaching, with a focus on protecting vulnerable individuals and addressing the wider social and economic impact of gambling. The extent to which these proposals are implemented remains to be seen, but the industry will be watching closely as the white paper is finally published.

 

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Flight to the black market ‘almost inevitable’ with affordability checks.

After the Racing Post revealed that one in six respondents to a major survey reported being asked by a bookmaker for their financial documents, the scale of affordability checks on racing bettors has been described as “surprising and disproportionate” by a leading industry analyst.

Given the extent to which bettors are being impacted by the intrusive and unpopular checks, Regulus Partners’ Dan Waugh also stated that the migration of punters with higher stakes to operators operating on the black market was “almost inevitable.” Regulus recently estimated that 20% of UK racing turnover has already shifted to the black market, resulting in a loss of £80 million annually in betting revenue.

More than 10,000 people responded to The Racing Post’s Big Punting Survey, which asked about a wide range of topics affecting racing bettors in Britain and Ireland. 16.6% said they had already been asked to provide pay stubs, bank statements, and other forms of documentation proving they could afford to bet.

Waugh, a consultant on gambling regulation and safer gambling who has frequently testified before parliamentary select committees, compared the scale of gambling-related harm to the prevalence of affordability checks highlighted in the survey.

“The problem gambling rate for people who bet on sport online is microscopic if they are not also doing online casinos or products like that,” said Waugh. “Horseracing has a lower problem gambling rate within sports betting than some other products.

“I think that 16 per cent of readers being asked for documents is surprising, even though readers of the Racing Post are more engaged in betting than general sports bettors. It does seem to be that a disproportionate percentage of racing bettors are being caught by these checks, given what we know from health surveys about the risks.”

In addition, the survey revealed that 3.6% of respondents knew someone who had used a black market bookmaker in the previous 12 months. Segmented data suggested that younger people and bettors with larger stakes were more likely to use illegal websites and products without licenses.

Waugh emphasised the dangers of losing higher-stakes bettors to the regulated market, which would have a negative impact on racing’s finances and cost the UK Treasury tax revenue.

“If you take the view that the Gambling Commission has been putting pressure on licensees to conduct affordability checks at relatively low levels of expenditure, then higher-staking customers are caught by that,” said Waugh. “I think it’s almost inevitable that higher-staking customers have greater incentives to go to unlicensed operators.

“Affordability checks are not the only reason; unlicensed operators don’t pay taxes and might be able to offer more generous inducements. But if you look at things that are changing then it seems highly plausible that higher-stakes customers are more likely to seek out unlicensed providers.”

The BHA on Thursday welcomed the Post’s survey as “an important piece of research that demonstrates the impact certain measures can have and the risks they pose to racing”.

Throughout the lengthy Gambling Act review process, the racing governing body has consistently made representations to the government, advising that affordability checks will drain the sport’s financial resources.

In a video address to the Thoroughbred Industry Employment Awards in York on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised racing’s economic and cultural impact on Britain. The British Horseracing Association (BHA) said that the Big Punting Survey presented yet another persuasive argument that should be taken into consideration by policymakers before the white paper is released.

A BHA spokesperson said: “The BHA has engaged extensively with UK government ministers and officials, as well as the Gambling Commission, setting out the unique relationship between racing and betting and seeking to reduce the risk of damaging, unintended consequences arising from this review for betting customers and the industry. We do not support blanket measures on affordability and believe that if measures are to be introduced, they should be proportionate, targeted at the individual and reflect their specific circumstances.

“This is an important piece of research that demonstrates the impact certain measures can have and the risks these pose to racing. We will strongly encourage government and policymakers to take this data on board as part of the Gambling Act review, which needs to be concluded as soon as possible.”

 

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‘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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Clueless Gambling Commission treating us with contempt.

Last weekend, the Gambling Commission CEO made a case in these pages that was welcomed with suspicion and shock by those acquainted with the association’s work: he guaranteed it was “nonsense” to say the meddlesome reasonableness checks scourging punters and causing serious harm to dashing’s incomes were crafted by the wagering controller.

Andrew Rhodes’ reasoning for making that guarantee was that the controller has not expressly commanded that bookmakers ought to request pay slips, bank proclamations and assessment forms from their clients.

However, he surrendered, the Gambling Commission had made it clear to bookmakers they should have “proportionate thresholds” for wagering movement above which firms are supposed to consider clients’ monetary conditions and their capacity to ‘manage’ their wagering. Inability to do so could bring about immense fines for bookmakers, or even the deficiency of their permit.

How firms fulfil this administrative prerequisite, Rhodes expressed, ultimately depended on them. Yet, by what other means are bookmakers expected to think about their clients’ individual monetary conditions, besides by asking bettors for pay slips, bank proclamations and government forms?

The circumstance is compounded in light of the fact that the Gambling Commission won’t characterise what those “proportionate thresholds” should seem to be, liking rather some vague waffle about “average available income” and the differentiation among “disposable” and “discretionary” pay. Bookmakers, got between the stone and a hard spot of swingeing disciplines and unimaginably unclear rules, have justifiably applied the preparatory standard, meaning huge number of common, mindful punters have previously been up to speed in moderateness checks.

It is much the same as the German police pronouncing that anybody viewed as driving “too fast” on the expressway will be hit by huge fines and potentially lose their permit, declining to explain what “excessively quick” signifies, and afterward, when the organisation eases back to a creep in light of the fact that the streets are loaded with anxious Teutonic drivers whistling along at 20mph, saying, ‘Well, we haven’t imposed any speed limits, so it’s nothing to do with us’.

In the event that the Gambling Commission truly doesn’t think reasonableness checks are the result of its own guideline, then it is careless in regards to the undeniable outcomes of its rules. If – as appears to be more probable – it is guaranteeing blamelessness on reasonableness checks since it perceives how disputable they are and wishes to keep away from examination, then it is disparaging bettors and deceiving the two purchasers and the political bosses to whom it evidently replies.

As per a Dashing television study delivered last week, in excess of a fifth of hustling bettors have proactively been approached to supply individual records like payslips and bank proclamations, and the trepidation presently is the following month’s Cheltenham Celebration will demonstrate a seismic second in this adventure for every one of some unacceptable reasons. Numerous punters whose wagering action the remainder of the year is under the bookmakers’ current “proportionate thresholds” are responsible to be hit with requests for monetary archives, just on the grounds that for multi week of the year they essentially increment their wagering spending plan.

While at most bookmakers these limits stay dark, we know that at 888, proprietor of William Slope, the reasonableness check bar has been set at £500. This is an aggregate numerous sporting punters would see as a moderate bank for the celebration, yet, at certain bookies, it will be sufficient to create freezes on action until delicate monetary reports are given.

The frenzy of that figure is featured by the reality simply going to the celebration would be considered possibly ‘unaffordable’ on a similar premise. At the hour of composing, a three-star lodging around on the premiere night of Cheltenham will hamper you more than £400. A Tattersalls ticket for the Tuesday is £72. Toss in food, beverages and transport, and you’re taking a gander at near £600 for the afternoon. Is the Chief Hotel going to begin requesting bank explanations at registration?

Ludicrous and hostile individuals endeavouring to store two or three hundred quid with a bookmaker one month from now will be treated like they are unequipped for making the most minor of monetary exchanges without the nannying oversight of a bookmaker’s consistence administrator, however be under no deceptions: this is what is going on definitely made by the Gambling Commission’s overweening and misguided guideline.

The commission’s refusal to try and just let it out is the engineer of moderateness checks demonstrates the reality of the circumstance confronting hustling and bettors. The main genuine type of plan of action, and the main expectation that the wild controller can be halted before disastrous harm is finished to dashing, is for the public authority to step in. However the possibility of that event, which appeared to be generally certain only half a month prior while the betting pastor Paul Scully proclaimed it was not the controller’s responsibility to figure out what individuals can stand to spend on betting, has now subsided.

Scully has been reshuffled, having been in the gig for under four months. His replacement – who over seven days after the fact has still not been selected – will be the 6th priest since the gambling survey, which we trust will give lucidity about what is and isn’t normal from bookmakers, was declared in 2020.

Obviously, betting change isn’t close to the highest point of state head Rishi Sunak’s need list. Yet, on the off chance that the political class doesn’t mind a lot of whether your freedoms are diminished by a controller, or that the blow-back is a centuries-old game cherished by millions and an effective rustic industry, what lawmakers without a doubt really do think often about is votes.

Fortunately, Racecourse Media Gathering, the racecourse-claimed parent organisation of Dashing television, has recently sent off a letter-composing effort that empowers bettors to rapidly and effectively alert their nearby MP to their interests about reasonableness checks and the Gambling Commission’s way of behaving. You can sign the letter by following this connection. Assuming that you care about your privileges, or the eventual fate of hustling, I ask you to do as such before it is past the point of no return.

 

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The Gambling Commission denies mandating the gambling industry’s burdensome affordability checks.

The claims that the industry regulator is pressuring bookmakers to impose intrusive affordability checks on bettors, according to Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes, are “nonsense.”

Rhodes stated that the commission did not require operators to make such requests, despite extensive evidence of ordinary punters being asked to provide personal financial information in order to continue betting. Additionally, Rhodes stated that the sport could not attribute the decline in horseracing betting to affordability checks.

The government’s long-delayed gambling review white paper is expected to include affordability checks in some form. However, punters have lodged hundreds of complaints with the Racing Post, alleging that they have been required to provide financial documents such as bank statements and tax returns in order to demonstrate that they are able to pay for the amount of money they spend on gambling. This despite Paul Scully’s recent statement that neither the government nor the Gambling Commission should tell people how much they can afford to bet.

Bookmakers claim that Gambling Commission guidelines on customer interaction have forced them to use the contentious checks, but Rhodes stated: “The idea the commission is imposing pressure on the industry to carry out checks for the average punter is nonsense. Operators are currently required to have systems in place which identify people who may be at risk of harm and to take appropriate action. One part of an operator’s approach to managing risk is having proportionate thresholds at which more information is required to satisfy themselves there is no issue with that customer relationship.”

He added: “We do not require operators to get payslips or bank statements, it will be up to the operator how they go about any check they feel they need to make.”

Despite this, Rhodes stated in a speech this week that the commission expected operators to assess risk taking into account the “financial situation for a consumer.” Rhodes claimed that other factors were at play when it was suggested to him that even though the commission may not have explicitly instructed operators to conduct intrusive checks, they were being forced to do so for fear of failing to assess the financial situation of customers.

“There are operators that we know who, as part of their business model, don’t want to be involved in high-staking gambling as much as they would have done in the past,” he said. “The fact that bets are up in the last year among the largest operators and active accounts are up suggests that actually the number of people gambling is pretty stable.”

Rhodes stated in his speech this week that large operators have experienced a decline in gross gambling yield of almost 16% and a rise in total staked of more than 13%. Rhodes responded, “very unlikely to be the first interaction that somebody has,” when asked if it was appropriate to request financial information from bettors. He also stated, “Bookmakers will typically have triggers based on earlier levels of spend, frequency of spend, changes in patterns of play.”

He did, however, acknowledge that punters might be hesitant to disclose financial information. “I think in any walk of life I can understand why people don’t necessarily want to share information,” he said. “It’s something we are all conditioned to treat with caution and to be careful what information we share.”

Scully stated in a speech last month that the government was considering introducing checks that would not require customers to provide their personal information.

Rhodes said: “What we would like to see for the future, and it is something that the now prior minister spoke about recently, which we have been working on is the ability to try to have frictionless checks that avoid people needing to present evidence.

“What we are not trying to do is create an unnecessary level of friction for people who are gambling and have no reason to necessarily stop, it is well within their means, they understand what they are doing and that is their choice to make. We have always said that.”

Martin Cruddace, chief executive of Arena Racing Company (Arc), claimed last year that affordability checks were to blame for a decline in horseracing betting of £800 million, which could result in a £40 million annual revenue loss for the sport.

Rhodes stated that it was too difficult to attribute that decrease to a single factor, citing figures indicating that only one percent of accounts were responsible for seventy percent of horseracing betting customers’ profits. He asserted that the behavior of the most prolific racing bettors could be influenced by other factors, including the aging of the racing audience, the economic situation, and the small field sizes.

Rhodes, on the other hand, stated that he had met with the BHA and was scheduled to meet with them again. Additionally, he had visited Chepstow and was scheduled to meet with Arc, the track’s owner. “The dialogue obviously continues. We completely understand, as we would with any industry, any sport, any group of people betting, that we should have a sensible dialogue with them about what we see going on.”

The Racing Post has received inquiries about affordability checks from a number of individuals who have admitted to either having bet with operators of the black market or considering doing so. The Betting and Gaming Council has also recently released figures that claim there was a spike in black market gambling during the World Cup in Qatar last year, and they warn against getting complacent about the situation.

Rhodes said: “I don’t think you can argue that improving things in the legitimate market shouldn’t happen because that might drive people to illegal gambling. I don’t accept that and I do think there has been some lazy argument about this.

“When you talk to operators in other countries, and many of those operators also operate here, they point to Great Britain as the example of how to reduce the risks of illegal gambling by having a very liberalised market.”

The white paper’s recent reshuffle by prime minister Rishi Sunak is expected to cause additional delays.

 

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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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