Britain’s Horseracing Industry launches petition over “Intrusive” Affordability Checks
Following on from the success of the recent Right to Bet survey, British Horseracing has launched a petition on the Government’s website calling for the proposed affordability or financial risk checks to be stopped.
As has been widely reported, the potential negative impact to the funding of the horse racing industry at all levels that affordability checks could have, and indeed are already having, is enormous.
If 10,000 people sign the petition, then the Government is obliged to issue a public response. If 100,000 sign it, there is the chance to secure a debate in the House of Commons.
On that basis I would ask you to take a few minutes to read the detail below. If you feel you are able to support our cause, then please sign the petition here.
Britain’s horseracing industry launched a petition urging the UK Government to halt planned legislation which would subject bettors who lose as little as £1.37 a day to “intrusive” affordability checks.
Proposals for two tiers of checks were set out in April of this year when the Government published its Gambling White Paper. The first tier would be for those who lose as little as £125 in 30 days or £500 in a year to be subject to “frictionless” background checks using “publicly available data”. The second would result in more detailed scrutiny for bettors with net losses of £1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days. These checks would involve credit reference agencies in the first instance, with bookmakers also required to ask customers for personal documentation such as bank statements and proof of earnings.
British racing continues to welcome the publication of the Gambling White Paper as an important step to ensure that gambling regulation is fit for the digital age, addressing the true causes of problem gambling and as a catalyst for a review of the Horserace Betting Levy. However, plans to introduce blanket affordability checks have been met with significant and widespread opposition.
And while the proposals have not yet been formally introduced, more than one in four bettors say they have already been subjected to affordability checks by bookmakers in anticipation of them being implemented, with some operators requesting financial documentation, including payslips and P60 forms.
Racing industry experts warn that enforcing the strict measures in the blanket way they are currently proposed would have a “catastrophic” impact on the industry, with more than half of the 14,000 racing bettors who completed a ‘Right to Bet’ survey saying they would be prepared to walk away from the sport completely or reduce their involvement rather than provide personal financial information.
Independent estimates value the potential lost revenue to the industry at around £250 million over the next five years and substantial online betting revenue has already been lost since the checks were first introduced.
The horseracing industry launched its petition following a consultation on ‘Financial risk checks for bettors’ which was conducted by the Gambling Commission and concluded on October 18th 2023.
Posted on Wednesday 1st November on Change.org, the petition is listed as “Stop the implementation of betting affordability/financial risk checks
Although it is registered in the name of Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, the petition is launched on behalf of Britain’s horseracing industry, which supports more than 85,000 jobs and contributes £4.1 billion to the UK economy each year.
Its online citation reads: "We want the Government to abandon the planned implementation of affordability checks for some people who want to place a bet. We believe such checks – which could include assessing whether people are ‘at risk of harm' based on their postcode or job title – are inappropriate and discriminatory.
The proposed checks could see bettors having to prove they can afford their hobby if they sustain losses as low as £1.37 per day. We accept the need to help those with problem gambling but more intrusive checks triggered at a higher threshold risks bettors moving to the black market where there are no consumer protections or safer gambling tools. We are concerned there will also be a negative impact on British horseracing’s finances due to a reduction in betting turnover and resulting fall in Levy yield."
The Jockey Club operates 15 of the UK’s racecourses and is the largest commercial organisation and employer in the sport. Nevin Truesdale, Chief Executive, said: “The horseracing industry is hugely supportive of changes which directly address problem gambling, especially in the digital age we are in and we welcome the reform of the gambling laws which will result from the White Paper, once it passes through the Parliamentary legislative process.
“However, the proposed and ongoing affordability checks are a significant infringement on personal freedom and have the potential to impact unfairly on two groups of people – the millions who gamble responsibly every year and the tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend directly and indirectly on horseracing.
“It is deeply disturbing that racing fans may have to prove they can afford to lose what amounts to less than £10 a week having a flutter on the sport they love, in particular when you consider the extremely low percentage of problem gambling in relation to horseracing. Nowhere else in society do we see this level of intrusiveness from the Government when it comes to people’s legitimate hobbies.
“We know that the likely result will either be people leaving the sport, some as owners as well as bettors, or much worse, switching to the unregulated black market. Both of these outcomes will have catastrophic consequences, not only for racing's financial ecosystem but for thousands of livelihoods which depend upon it and therefore for communities and families up and down the country.
"Whether you are a breeder, trainer, farrier, vet, jockey, or you work in a racing yard, at a racecourse in any capacity or in one of the countless other roles which help this sport contribute £4.1 billion to the UK economy each year, these affordability checks have the potential to threaten your livelihood.
“Racecourses and our industry as a whole play a crucial role in the communities they serve and operate in and it is no exaggeration to draw the conclusion that, ultimately, the very many local businesses which also thrive as a part of these racing communities will be put at significant risk too.”
Truesdale added that a major concern regarding the Government’s plans is that the checks themselves will not actually succeed in addressing the biggest issue they have been designed to tackle.
He explained: “If you introduce these blanket checks as they have been proposed, all it will actually do is create issues and friction for people, most of whom bet perfectly responsibly.
“It won't actually address the challenges faced by problem gamblers, given that it is a habit-forming activity. Those betting safely will give up or turn to the black market, creating further problems in an unregulated environment, while those who don’t have the means to fund their gambling will simply find another way to bet.
“We would like to see a much more targeted system of checks, which specifically respond to other markers of harm rather than just a blanket affordability check that will do nothing to address the underlying issue.”
In order to secure a response from the Government the petition must receive 10,000 signatures and if 100,000 people sign then it will be considered for debate in Parliament.
To sign the petition visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/649894