The forever-delayed white paper that will form the foundation for Gambling Act reform has now been lightly penciled in for a spring publication date.
One of the main talking points is the possible inclusion of affordability checks, that would require punters to be able to prove that they are betting in a responsible manner in relation to their net worth.
That could see bookmakers and betting sites requesting payslips from their customers – a potential data security nightmare, let alone something of an infringement of privacy and civil liberty.
There is also some fear that gambling minister Chris Philp’s plan to use credit rating agencies to check on those wagering ‘smaller’ amounts could impact upon the individual’s credit score.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a decision that has not gone down well with the betting community, and a recent YouGov survey is a source of significant concern for those in the sector….
Punters Could Flock to Offshore Bookmakers
The poll, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the UK Betting and Gaming Council, found that just 16% of punters would be happy to submit their personal data as part of an enhanced affordability check.
And more than half of the respondents suggested that they would consider using offshore and black market bookmakers if the checks are enforced as part of the revised Gambling Act.
Firms not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission are not legally required to implement many key responsible gambling measures, and a number of operators overseas have even been found not carrying out appropriate verification on their customers.
It’s estimated that around 460,000 punters in the UK now use black market firms, and that stat alone should act as a ‘wake-up call’ to ministers – that’s according to BGC chief Michael Dugher. “We strongly support the Gambling Review as a once in a generation opportunity to raise standards and promote safer gambling,” he said.
“Ministers have said it will be an evidence-led process, and these findings are a wake-up call showing the potential dangers of introducing blanket affordability checks on anyone who likes a flutter.
“We believe that technology should be used to identify those showing signs of problem gambling, so that swift interventions can take place. Any changes introduced by the Government must be balanced so that they rightly protect the vulnerable while not driving the vast majority who bet safely and responsible towards the unsafe black market online.”
Racing’s Moment of Reckoning
If affordability checks are enforced, it could cost bookmakers anywhere between £60 million and £100 million a year in lost punters, according to estimates.
For horse racing, a sport that relies upon the Betting Levy as a major source of income, it would be a catastrophic loss – impacting it from top to bottom and, probably, leading to a reduction of prize money available.
So Racing TV are trying to get ahead of the curve, and they have been imploring their viewers to contact their local MPs to challenge the possibility of affordability checks.
They have launched an online portal that allows racing fans to add their names to an email expressing concern at the move, and at the time of writing the number had swelled to more than 5,000….and counting.
The message asks MPs to ensure that any changes to gambling legislation don’t ‘impinge on civil liberties’, don’t result in ‘unintended economic consequences’ for racing and did not diminish the public’s ‘enjoyment’ of the sport.
The CEO of RMG, who operate Racing TV, is Martin Stevenson. “Racing TV absolutely supports and endorses the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals from gambling-related harm, but it is vital that any new legislation is proportionate, targeted and evidence-based,” he said.
“To that end, we’ve activated our racecourses’ and our own networks and provided them with a facility to write to their local MPs – and the response has been overwhelming. It demonstrates just how much these issues strike a chord with punters and racing fans.”
The channel carried out their own survey of more than 2,000 of its members, and that found that some 86% of respondents thought affordability checks would drive punters to the black market, 93% said it would be ‘wrong’ for ministers to be able to limit the amount that can be bet and 95% said they would not be willing to share bank statements and other proof of finances in order to have a flutter.