Affordability checks to have day in parliament following racing petition

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Concerns over gambling affordability checks are due to be aired in Parliament by horse racing stakeholders after a petition on the matter reached the minimum 100,000 signature requirement.

MPs are now required to discuss the topic at least once now that the petition – launched by Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, Nevin Truesdale, along with the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), in November 2023 – has reached the required threshold for debate.

Affordability checks are one of the flagship recommendations of the Gambling Act review White Paper, published in April. Branded as ‘finance risk checks’ by the legislative review, the measures could have significant consequences for the betting payments journey.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the DCMS – the department responsible for governmental oversight of the betting industry – expects that only 3% of betting accounts will be subject to affordability checks, which in most cases will consist of a light credit check. 

An even smaller number of accounts, 0.3%, will be asked to directly provide financial information. This means that 99.7% of customer accounts’ will remain uninterpreted’, according to the regulator.

Specifics will see checks begin at a net loss of £125 within a month, or £500 within a year, with higher spending thresholds being £1,000 in a day and £2,000 within a month, with benchmarks tightened by 50% for 18-24 year old bettors.

In cases where direct financial information is required, the UKGC and DCMS plan for Open Banking technology to play a key role. Customers requiring more stringent checks will be requested to allow limited data sharing by third party Open Banking providers.

However, racing stakeholders are concerned that the measures could impact betting revenues, which the sport is heavily reliant on for financial support via the horse racing betting levy.

Welcoming the debate, due to be held on 26 February, Julie Harrington, CEO of the BHA, said: “We are pleased that the important issue of affordability checks will now be subjected to proper levels of parliamentary scrutiny.

“The fact that our survey reached the required 100,000 signatures threshold in just 27 days is a powerful testament to the strength of feeling shared by bettors over the proposed checks. This has today been recognised by the Petitions Committee.

“No other form of leisure activity is subjected to the kinds of restrictions being proposed by the government and so it is right that MPs have the chance to forensically debate this issue.”

The petition labels the checks as ‘inappropriate and discriminatory’, and will lead to a negative effect on the horse racing industry, which contributes “£4bn annually to the UK’s economy and supports 85,000 jobs”.

Horse racing is projecting a £250m loss in revenues over the next five years as a result of affordability checks. Meanwhile, bookmakers continue to raise concerns that customers may turn to ‘black market’ firms that do not adopt any form of safeguarding if affordability checks are not frictionless enough.

Harrington concluded: “While we support the need to protect individuals from the risk of gambling-related harm, it remains the case that millions of people enjoy betting on horseracing without suffering any ill effects.

“The BHA will therefore continue to push for changes to the Gambling Commission’s proposals on affordability checks to protect the sport’s financial future and limit the impact on racing bettors.”