British racing bodies hit out at “disastrous” affordability checks plans

| By Robert Fletcher
The British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association (RCA) and the Horsemen’s Group (HG) have criticised proposals by the Gambling Commission to introduce affordability checks for customers, saying this would have a “disastrous” impact on racing’s finances and its recovery from Covid-19.
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The Commission in November launched a consultation seeking feedback on its plans to introduce requirements for licensed operators to act on the information they have about a player’s potential vulnerability.

This included operators having to put in place stronger requirements, such as defined affordability assessments at thresholds set by the Commission.

However, the three racing organisations have hit out at the proposals, saying they had deep concerns about the impact such a move could have on the racing sector, which suffered heavy losses in 2020 due to Covid-19.

“A majority of our work, and of leaders across the industry, is currently focused on a range of financial issues that are vital to racing recovering from the impact of Covid-19,” BHA chief executive Julie Harrington said.

“We have to plan for a range of possibilities and are working with government and other sports on the return of spectators and owners as soon as that is possible.”

The plans were put forward around the time the government made a separate announcement that it would undertake an evidence-led review of the Gambling Act, with a view to bring this up to date with the market. The current version of the Act came into law in 2005.

The three organisations said they would be keen to work with the government as part of the Review to establish new laws that are suited to the modern market and also recognise the economic contribution made by betting and associated industries such as horse racing.

The bodies also said they would have dialogue with operators as part of their strategy to gather evidence to demonstrate the case for reform as part of the Review.

RCA chief executive David Armstrong said: “Racing is approaching the most critical period since the beginning of the pandemic. With external regulatory issues facing us in the form of the Affordability Review, the Gambling Act Review and Brexit, plus no immediate prospect of race-goers returning, the next six months will be the most crucial period on our recovery journey.”

Racehorse Owners Association chief executive Charlie Liverton added: “The effect of Covid-19 continues to impact British racing, both on and off the racecourse. The potential ramifications of government reviews including the Gambling Act and the Affordability Review are concerning.

“The return of owners to the racecourse remains a key objective, working with the RCA and BHA to open up racecourses to race- goers as soon as regulations allow.”

The racing organisations are the latest leading voices in the gambling industry to flag their concerns over the affordability checks. The Betting and Gaming Council said such proposals could risk forcing ordinary punters towards the black market, should these checks on their income prove too intrusive and onerous.

The Gambling Commission has previously looked to play down the prospect of players migrating to offshore sites.