A debate in parliament on the subject of controversial affordability checks is “crucial”, according to Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club.
Industry leaders have warned that new regulations could cost the sport up to £250million over the next five years, threatening racecourses with closure and putting some of the 80,000-plus jobs associated with racing at risk.
On Tuesday, a petition against the implementation of what are seen as intrusive checks passed 100,000 signatures – the point at which parliament is obliged to consider whether to hold a debate into the proposals.
The petition is industry-wide, but is registered in the name of Truesdale, who said: “The racing industry and its many supporters have demonstrated the level of concern about the proposed affordability checks by helping this petition reach 100,000 signatures.
“The government has been left in no doubt about the strength of opposition to these intrusive and potentially discriminatory checks with a knock-on effect to racing’s financial ecosystem and the 88,000 jobs which depend upon it. It is therefore crucial that we now secure a debate in parliament so that the vitally important issue of problem gambling and how best to address it in the digital age can be discussed properly.
“We want to see targeted measures implemented so that those at risk of gambling harm get the support they need and that measures are put in place which actually address the core issue. As such I would urge parliament to take steps to ensure such a debate takes place as swiftly as possible.
“British racing has consistently demonstrated that it is stronger and more effective when it works together and the way we have collaborated on this issue, which threatens the future of the industry in so many ways, is another fantastic example of that.”
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 £8.4 to £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.”