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Petition opposing UK affordability checks hits 100,000 signatories

| By Richard Mulligan
The petition opposing the widespread introduction of affordability checks outlined in the Gambling Act review white paper now has the potential to be discussed in parliament after it reached 100,000 signatories.

The petition passed the threshold on Tuesday evening after being registered earlier this month by Jockey Club CEO Nevin Truesdale.

Parliament’s petitions committee will now decide whether to schedule a debate on the issue in Westminster Hall.

The petition calls on the government to abandon the planned implementation of affordability checks on bettors. It claims there is a risk of “inappropriate and discriminatory” checks based on the consumer’s postcode or job title.

The petition claims bettors may have to prove they can afford their hobby if they lose £1.37 per day. It suggests it could lead to a negative impact on British horse racing’s finances due to a fall in levy yield.

“We accept the need to help those with problem gambling but more intrusive checks… risks bettors moving to the black market,” the petition reads.

Financial risk checks were one of the many terms put forward in the Gambling Act review white paper. The Gambling Commission concluded a public consultation in October 2023 after receiving over 2,000 responses.

However, the recent Right to Bet survey found that almost half of respondents were prepared to switch to the black market if faced with stringent affordability checks. One in four had already faced affordability checks.

Racing welcomes success of petition

Martin Stevenson, CEO at Racecourse Media Group, welcomed the success of the petition.

“It is fantastic to see the industry come together on this campaign – and reach the 100,000 threshold within a month,” Stevenson said.

“It shows the deep strength of feeling against financial risk checks, as proposed in their current form, and ensures the subject remains very much on the agenda with the government and Gambling Commission.

“We now ask the petitions committee to table this debate… as a matter of urgency – hopefully in January – given the significance of the petition and the widespread concerns the racing industry holds over the proposed financial risk checks.”

Government: We want to protect those at risk

The government has already issued a response to the petition, defending its position. It was compelled to do so when the petition reached 10,000 signatories.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month, Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes dismissed arguments that the changes would drive customers towards the black market. Rhodes told a meeting with industry leaders he believes that the risk is overstated.

He added: “That does not mean there is no risk, as I have said many times. It does not mean there are no problems.

“I hear quite a lot of anecdotal examples from you, but we need to turn that into something actionable. I am genuinely grateful to those who have provided confidential information to us, which has helped us in this area.”

In countering the horse racing sector’s pushback towards affordability checks, Rhodes highlighted the Patterns of Play research. The report states that the most profitable one per cent accounts for 70.4 per cent of gross gambling yield (GGY).

His conclusion is that “horse racing not only has a critical dependency on money lost to operators through gambling… but relies on 70% of that money coming from a proportion of bettors five times smaller”.

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