BGC urges parliament to uphold Ministers’ affordability check pledges

BGC urges parliament to uphold Ministers’ affordability check pledges
Credit: shana espinoza, Shutterstock

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called on MPs to guarantee that the government ‘honours its commitments’ to ensuring gambling affordability checks are truly frictionless.

Affordability checks are one of the flagship measures of the Gambling Act review White Paper, billed in the legislation as finance risk checks, designed with the goal in mind of making sure bettors are financially secure enough to gamble.

However, concerns have been raised before, during and after the White Paper’s publication about the potential impact on the betting payments journey, and whether this could subsequently drive away customers.

These worries have been raised particularly fiercely by the UK horse racing sector, which depends on betting industry levy payments from operator revenues for financial support. A petition launched in November by racing stakeholders has now amassed over 100,000 signatures, meaning it will be debated in Parliament.

Commenting on this development, BGC CEO, Michael Dugher, said: “Ministers promised Parliament that checks would be frictionless. They now need to honour that commitment and will the means.

“At the BGC, we supported enhanced checks for online gambling, but have been clear throughout that checks should be carefully targeted on those showing signs of problem gambling, or those who are at risk of harm, so operators can use technology to take swift action. 

“They must also remain frictionless for the vast majority, as punters have repeatedly made clear they will not submit to intrusive checks.”

Currently, checks will occur following 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, and benchmarks tightened by 50% for 18-24 year old bettors.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) expects that 3% of betting accounts will be subject to a check, which in most cases will be a light credit check, with only 0.3% of customers asked to directly provide financial information via a third-party Open Banking firm.

However, operator and horse racing concerns about the potentially intrusive nature of affordability checks remain. Operators such as Kindred have previously stressed to SBC Media the importance of ensuring checks remain frictionless.

Other operators, racing stakeholders and the BGC also remain concerned that overly intrusive checks could drive customers towards ‘black market’ operators which do not adhere to any UKGC licensing standards.

Dugher continued: “The overwhelming majority bet perfectly safely and responsibly, and it is crucial no check is introduced which risks driving these punters to the unsafe, unregulated black market online. These sites have none of the standards or protections offered by BGC members and they make no contribution either to the Exchequer or sports like horse racing.

“We continue to work closely with the Gambling Commission and believe there should be a proper pilot before any permanent changes are introduced.

“The Jockey Club are to be congratulated for helping to secure this important parliamentary debate. Nevin Truesdale and his team have injected a much-needed dose of common sense. 

“Too often, the debate around gambling has been dominated by a handful of out-of-touch anti-gambling prohibitionists whose enthusiasm for draconian changes would wreck great British sports like racing.”