The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has welcomed a forthcoming Parliamentary debate on gambling affordability checks, a potential measure which has caused much alarm for the sport.
Back in November, Nevin Truesdale, CEO of The Jockey Club, launched the petition in cooperation with the BHA. The petition has now amassed over 100,000 signatures, the minimum required for parliamentary debate, which will take place on 26 February.
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 have been a long-term cause of concern for racing.
The sports’ stakeholders project a £250m loss in revenues over a five-year period if affordability checks are adopted. This is based on expectations of a drop in bookmaker revenue, on which racing is heavily dependent on for funding via the racing betting levy.
“We are pleased that the important issue of affordability checks will now be subjected to proper levels of parliamentary scrutiny,” said Julie Harrington, Chair of the BHA.
“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.”
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.
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.
Racing is clearly not convinced, however. The petition labelled checks as ‘inappropriate and discriminatory’, and of potentially negatively impacting a sport which contributes “£4bn annually to the UK’s economy and supports 85,000 jobs”.
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.”
Betting turnover is not the only issue affecting horse racing’s finances, however, as the sport has been struggling to keep up engagement with audiences and attendees at tracks has been dwindling.
This has seen a range of measures adopted by racing, but also the betting industry, to increase engagement, such as racecourse concerts and the creation of The Racing League, which adopted a local team-based format.
For others, content is the answer – last year, FItzdares CEO William Woodhams spoke to Insider Sport about the firm’s newly launched Racing App, which he hopes will become a ‘one stop shop’ for racing data.