Tag Archive for: Gambling Commission

Response issued by government to petition on affordability checks

The government has responded to the racing industry’s petition to stop the proposed implementation of affordability checks.

Although it is registered in the name of Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, the petition was launched on behalf of Britain’s horseracing industry, which supports more than 85,000 jobs and contributes £4.1billion to the UK economy each year.

It has so far attracted in excess of 80,000 signatures and will warrant consideration for a debate in parliament when it hits 100,000.

The sport is broadly concerned that the implementation of affordability checks will be highly damaging to its revenue and are potentially intrusive to punters for the sake of relatively small losses. Many owners have spoken out on their intention to leave the sport or significantly cut their interests over the issue.

With signatures rising swiftly the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has underlined its commitment to “effective but proportionate” affordability checks whilst working with the industry to gain clarity on the expected financial deficit.

A portion of the response read: “We are committed to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks, to protect those at risk of harm without over regulating. The Gambling Commission will set out plans in due course.

“The government and Gambling Commission recognise concerns some have with the proposed system of financial risk checks for the highest spending online customers to help identify and tackle gambling related harm. We share the goals that the checks should not overregulate the gambling sector, should not unduly disrupt the millions of people who gamble without suffering harm, and should not cause unnecessary damage to sectors which rely on betting, in particular horseracing. The government is a strong supporter of horseracing, and recognises that it is not the job of either the government or the Gambling Commission to tell people how to spend their money. As outlined in the gambling white paper we are seeking to balance this freedom with the necessary action to tackle the devastating consequences which harmful gambling can have for individuals and communities.

“Importantly, the proposals will represent a significant improvement for both businesses and customers compared to the current situation. While the Gambling Commission does not currently have specific requirements or thresholds, we know that operators are applying inconsistent ‘affordability’ checks on a number of customers, often without being clear on why the checks are happening, and normally requiring customers to provide data manually. We have challenged operators to be more transparent with customers in the interim, but the proposed system will be a significant improvement in having clear and proportionate rules which all operators are held to, and allowing for financial data to be shared seamlessly with operators instead of burdening customers with information requests. Both the government and the Gambling Commission have been clear that we would not mandate the checks proposed in the consultation until we are sure that they will be frictionless for the vast majority of customers who would be checked.”

It added: “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.”

Gambling Commission seeks to reassure MPs over punter postcode checks

The gambling regulator has told MPs that a customer’s postcode can only be used “in combination” by betting firms to assess their financial risk.

The heads of the Gambling Commission appeared in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as controversy grows over the introduction of affordability checks on bettors as part of the development of the gambling White Paper.

Chief executive Andrew Rhodes, his deputy Sarah Gardner and executive director Tim Miller are facing questions from members of the committee as part of its inquiry into gambling regulation.

The industry watchdog is in the middle of a consultation about its proposals for implementing the White Paper and has attracted intense criticism for its interpretation of the Government’s plans around financial checks.

Discussing the use of credit agencies with MPs, Mr Miller said: “We’ve worked incredibly closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that this is compliant with data protection legislation, and they will continue to work with us as this is developed further.

“Importantly, the rules will be very clear that any data that is collected through this can only be used for the purposes of helping to protect consumers and cannot be used for commercial purposes.”

Asked what other type of agency could be used, Mr Miller said: “At the moment it will primarily be credit reference agencies, but clearly there’s a range of other data that can be publicly available that can be useful here.

“So, for example, postcode data can be really useful in terms of helping you understand where areas of deprivation exist.

“Now, that won’t necessarily immediately tell you that for that customer that lives in that postcode that they are at greater risk. But if they’re living in an area of greater deprivation then, actually, I think it is right that we say there is greater onus on the operator to really understand whether that customer can afford the sort of gambling that they are engaged with.

“So that sort of publicly available data would supplement what you’d have from credit reference agencies.”

Mr Rhodes added: “It’s important to say that these things are taken in combination.

“I can almost guarantee someone’s writing a tweet now saying ‘The Gambling Commission says whether you can gamble or not depends on whether you live in a poor area or not’.

“And what we’re actually saying is there’s a whole wealth of data that can be used that builds a risk picture. It’s not one thing on its own. You take things in combination.

“So there is no guarantee that because someone lives in an area that they have a particular income, but you take it in combination with something from credit reference agencies, other public information, other information we can gather – you start to build a risk picture.”

The White Paper proposes that “enhanced financial checks” will be triggered by a spend of £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days, but politicians have repeatedly promised the checks will be frictionless.

Writing in the Racing Post in April when the White Paper was released, gambling minister Stuart Andrew said: “(For) the very few players who undergo checks, these will happen in the background against information already publicly available so the process is completely frictionless.”

Culture minister Lucy Frazer, speaking in the Commons when the White Paper was unveiled, also said: “Most people will not know that the checks … are happening. They will be frictionless and happen behind the scenes: 80% of people will have to do nothing at all and 20% will have a simple check on whether they have been made bankrupt or have a county court judgment against them.”