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.”