Racing demands 'intrusive' betting checks that target gamblers losing £1.37 a day be scrapped

Sam Twiston-Davies riding Lump Sum at Kempton Park
Sam Twiston-Davies riding Lump Sum at Kempton Park

Racing has made a final plea to the Government to ditch plans to introduce “intrusive” gambling affordability checks ahead of a parliamentary debate about them on Monday.

MPs will discuss proposals set out last April when the White Paper for a new Gambling Act was published, which the Jockey Club, British Horseracing Authority, racecourses and some of the sport’s biggest names have repeatedly warned would be disastrous for the industry.

Racing fears the new checks on people who lose as little as £1.37 a day with bookmakers will cost it £250 million in funding over the next five years and put thousands of jobs at risk, as punters either turn away from placing a bet or turn to the black market.

A petition lodged with the official parliament website last year, which called for the plan to be scrapped, attracted the 100,000 signatures required to be considered for debate by MPs.

It was registered in the name of Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, who said on the eve of Monday’s debate: “The racing industry has been supportive of the Government’s efforts to bring gambling regulation in line with the digital age.

“However, we strongly believe that proposed one-size-fits-all ‘financial risk checks’ would not effectively help those at risk of gambling harm, and could instead see people turn to unregulated betting markets in order to avoid intrusive checks. It is important to remember that these proposals would impact people betting on any sport and it is extremely concerning that a recent survey conducted by the British Horseracing Authority showed that four in 10 bettors said they would be prepared to use an unregulated bookmaker if stringent checks are implemented and that more than one in four of those surveyed had already been asked for some form of personal proof of funds.

“The proposed checks would see punters undergo financial background screening if they lose £125 a month or £500 in a year – the equivalent of just £1.37 a day. Such checks would fail to recognise an individual’s personal circumstances and not effectively take action to intervene if there are signs of gambling vulnerability.

“Instead, a better system of increased use of data sharing and government-agreed ‘markers of harm’ would allow for early and more specific intervention as soon as anyone showed any signs of harmful betting and be a much more effective way to tackle problem gambling with the small minority of individuals whom it impacts.”

Racing has previously claimed the industry has already been left with a crippling £1 billion black hole in lost betting turnover since 2021.

Truesdale added: “It’s not just ineffective action on gambling harm that we are worried about. These proposed financial risk checks could also have a devastating impact on horseracing’s ability to continue to support the 85,000 jobs it does across the UK – by reducing racing’s income by potentially as much as £50million a year.

“Such a large reduction in funding to racing could have huge knock-on implications, not just in reducing the amount of prize money on offer for participants who rely on racing for income, but could also result in job losses. Whether you are a breeder, trainer, farrier, vet, jockey, or you work in a racing yard, at a racecourse in any capacity or in one of the countless other roles as well as a range of other businesses who depend on racing communities for many of their customers, the proposed checks provide a real threat to some of these vital occupations.

“We want to work with the Government to ensure we can find a solution that effectively tackles gambling harm, and also protects the racing industry.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport said: “Horse racing is an integral part of British sporting culture and heritage, and we are committed to a sustainable future for the sport. This is why we have committed to reviewing the horse race betting levy.

“But it is important that we also take steps to minimise the risk of gambling related harm, which is why we are introducing light-touch, frictionless checks to protect people from potentially life changing losses.

“Industry-run financial risk checks are currently inconsistent, onerous and ad hoc, and our proposed checks are designed to streamline the process for the overwhelming majority of accounts.”

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