The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has sat down with racing officials as proposals to introduce enhanced affordability checks on punters look set to be introduced in the government’s upcoming gambling reforms.
Sunak has been contacted by a number of stakeholders in the sport outlining their concerns over the plan, who all confirmed that such measures may push individuals away from betting – a key source of revenue for racing’s ongoing financial battle – and see as much as £60 million lost.
He will relay those fears to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who is currently overseeing possible changes to the Gambling Act that would reflect the changing landscape of online wagering.
A consultation conducted by the UK Gambling Commission found within its call for evidence a proposal for a threshold on net gambling losses for each customer based upon their income – if they wanted to wager more within a specified timeframe, they would be forced to prove to their bookmaker that they could afford to lose their stake money. An ‘intervention’ could be triggered from a loss of £100, it has been claimed.
It is believed that this affordability assessment initiative is being considered as an aside from the Gambling Act review, and many within the industry believe the two things should be considered in conjunction with one another.
One of the groups of dissenters is officials from Catterick racecourse, which forms part of Sunak’s North Yorkshire constituency, who subsequently received a letter from the Chancellor indicating that he would raise the matter personally with the Secretary of State for Culture.
Catterick’s group chief executive, John Sanderson, said:
“Affordability is a big worry as it is estimated to take £60 million out of racing. That is a hell of a lot of money under any circumstances.”
HBF Warns of ‘Serious Concerns’ About Affordability Proposal
The Gambling Commission has now extended the consultation period of the affordability review until February 9, and their spokesperson said:
“This is a public consultation and we would encourage everyone who has an interest to have their. We will carefully consider all responses before making a decision.”
The Horse Racing Bettors Forum (HBF) will be hoping that their warnings are heeded. They have pleased with the regulator to introduce other tools for tackling problem gambling – including an extension of the current measures in place with bookmakers – in order to prevent droves of punters being turned away from the sport.
To prove their income, bettors might be forced into sharing their personal data regarding salary and savings, and could mean the need to send bank statements, payslips and other documentation online – a step that will prove to be a huge turn off to many.
The HBF has prepared their own statement as part of the Commission’s consultation, and they speak of ‘serious concerns’ about the proposed affordability assessments.
“Since 99.5 per cent of those who gamble show no signs of problem gambling, we believe that making potentially millions of bettors have to undergo affordability checks will dissuade many from continuing with this pursuit, which will in turn have a significant impact on the sport of horse racing,” the statement read.