Affordability checks petition passes 100,000 signatures

It is feared new regulations could cost the racing industry up to £250million.

Parliament will be forced to consider whether to hold a debate on the proposed implementation of betting affordability checks after a petition opposing such measures passed 100,000 signatures.

Racing organisations and officials have expressed fears that the introduction of intrusive financial risk regulations could lead to punters switching to unlicensed bookmakers.

A group of industry leaders have warned that the new regulations could then cost the sport up to GBP 250million over the next five years, threatening racecourses with closure and putting some of the 80,000-plus jobs associated with racing at risk.

The petition states: “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 GBP 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.”

Leading National Hunt trainer Nicky Henderson helped drive the push to reach 100,000 signatures.

In an open letter to Racing TV customers, he wrote: “In recent weeks, I have realised that this very much is my problem. If you are reading this, you are a racing fan, which means it’s your problem as well.

“I have spoken to one or two quite serious punters who are already being impacted by affordability checks and are furious that the gambling white paper is set to make it even harder for them.

“They are adamant they are not going to hand over their personal financial documents. I don’t blame them. Why should they or any punter, big or small, be told whether or not they can afford to have a bet?

“It is completely wrong in principle – and even if you don’t bet, it doesn’t mean this has nothing to do with you. Affordability checks are going to smash a hole in racing’s finances and do untold damage to British racing and rural communities.

“That’s why I’ve been urging people in Lambourn to sign the sport’s petition against affordability checks. This is a massive issue and we must do all we can to make a difference.”

Earlier this month, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport provided a detailed response to the setting up of the affordability checks petition.

It stated: “The government recognises the enormous value of horseracing as both a spectator sport and through its economic contribution.

“The white paper’s estimate was that financial risk checks will reduce online horserace betting yield by 6% to 11%, which would in turn reduce racing’s income by GBP 8.4 to GBP 14.9 million per year (0.5% to 1% of its total income) through a reduction in levy, media rights and sponsorship returns.

“We are working with racing and refining that estimate. We have also commenced a review of the Horserace Betting Levy to ensure a suitable return to the sport for the future.

“The government and Gambling Commission are working with the industry and others to ensure the checks can be implemented in an effective but proportionate way.

“We are also exploring the role of pilots or phased implementation to help ensure this. The Gambling Commission will set out details on its plans in due course.”

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