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BHA outlines opposition to blanket affordability checks

| By Robert Fletcher
British Horseracing Authority (BHA) managing director Julie Harrington has hit out at proposals to introduce blanket affordability checks, saying they are not “appropriate”.

Speaking at a BHA-hosted reception at the Houses of Parliament, Harrington said the BHA opposed such an approach. She added that the BHA has received messages from a number of concerned racing fans about the proposals.

This was one of several proposals put forward in the government’s white paper, which was finally published in April.

Harrington, who was addressing parliamentarians, government officials and racing industry professionals, said the government should consider alternative options. She added that the BHA is willing to support with forming new ideas.

“No one in British racing wants to see someone come to financial harm as a result of betting on horseracing and we have been taking steps to look at what more we can do as a sport to encourage socially responsible betting,” Harrington said.

“However, we have been clear throughout that a blanket approach to affordability is not appropriate. This is especially true in a sport like racing which has a broad appeal across different socio-economic demographics.

“British racing is working with relevant stakeholders to formulate a response to the Gambling Commission’s consultation. We look forward to further discussions with the DCMS and the Gambling Commission about how the impact on racing fans, and the industry as a whole, can be decreased.

“Our industry has so much to offer wider society and to support the agendas of government. We are a unique soft power asset, with a huge constituency footprint and a broad fanbase that cuts across different parts of policy. We are also an industry of untapped potential and, with the right support from government, will continue to thrive in the coming years.”

Debate continues over white paper proposals 

The long-awaited white paper also included other ideas that the government believes will help modernise regulation.

If approved, players who lose £1,000 within 24 hours, or £2,000 over a period of 90 days, will be subject to detailed affordability checks. Operators will also have to perform “passive” checks on players who have a net loss beyond £125 each month, or £500 per year.

Other proposals include a stake limit on slots. The DCMS will conduct a consultation on this limit being between £2 and £15 per spin.

A mandatory statutory levy would also be paid by operators to the Gambling Commission. This would be used to fund research, education and treatment for gambling harms.

The government also wants to create an operationally independent gambling ombudsman to address complaints from players. The Commission will also review design rules for online games and look at tougher restrictions on VIP schemes.

Land-based restrictions could be eased, including the cap of the maximum number of slot machines in larger casinos.

In addition, the Commission will consult on proposed controls for customers. These include the ability to opt-in for online bonuses and other online gambling offers.

Affordability checks dominate consultation responses

The blanket affordability checks seems to be the main sticking point for stakeholders. This week, Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said concerns over such checks have dominated responses to white paper consultations.

Rhodes was giving evidence in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing on gambling regulation. Coincidentally, this took place on the same day that Harrington was also speaking with parliamentarians.

“We’ve had around 1,500 responses to the consultations thus far,” said Rhodes. “Most of those, if not nearly all of them, are under the area of financial risk checks, which is the most challenging part of what we’re doing at the moment.”  

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