horse racing
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The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) plans to closely monitor the government-mandated adoption of affordability checks across the betting industry.

Financial risk checks, the Gambling Act review’s answer to affordability checks, have been a major area of concern for British horse racing in recent years. Stakeholders in the sport have repeatedly raised concerns about the measures’ potential impact.

It was announced yesterday by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) that the lowest threshold for affordability checks, whereby betting customers will be asked to verify financial stability, will begin at the initially planned figure of £150 to £125.

A pilot phase for the checks will begin on 30 August with the UK’s biggest operators, starting at £500. It will then be reduced over the following months in November, January and February, finishing at £150.

Julie Harrington, BHA Chief Executive, commented in a statement: “While today’s announcement on increased thresholds for affordability checks is a move in the right direction, it does not yet secure a more sustainable future for racing’s finances.

“We remain concerned that there is no update on the government’s review of the Levy, promised more than a year ago, and the threat that represents to racing’s financial well-being.”

UK racing had been chiefly concerned with the checks due to its reliance on the betting industry levy for financial support, whereby bookmakers pay an annual sum of revenue to support the sport.

Racing also gains revenue through bookmaker sponsorship deals and media rights sales to both online and retail betting. The sports leadership was concerned that a potential impact to bookmaker revenue as a result of affordability could, in turn, impact its own financial stability.

The sport has repeatedly made its voice clear on the matter. This has included the launch of a petition last year, which led to affordability being debated in parliament. In her statement, Harrington praised the sport’s lobbying during this period.

“We are reassured that the government has listened to Racing’s long campaign against the affordability checks it first set out in its White Paper more than a year ago,” she said.

“It is also to the credit of racing fans, and the wider racing industry, that their lobbying of government, whether through taking part in our ‘Right to Bet’ survey or signing the petition to trigger February’s Westminster Hall debate, has so clearly been heard.”

In addition to the UKGC’s clarification, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) standards body also outlined an interim code of conduct on customer checks for its members.

When announcing the voluntary code, BGC CEO, Michael Dugher, remarked that the code “should be particularly welcomed by British horseracing”. He also stated that money laundering would be a focal area for the BGC, UKGC and Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) moving forward, a sentiment shared today by the BHA’s Harrington.

“It is also vital that new rules on Anti-Money Laundering checks are set out as soon as possible to avoid racing bettors being caught up in separate requests for financial documents,” she concluded.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the Secretary of State Lucy Frazer and Sports Minister Stuart Andrew to secure a review of the Levy that delivers a sustainable funding model for Britain’s second most-watched sport, safeguarding thousands of jobs and an economic lifeline in Britain’s rural communities.

“It remains our belief that the simplest way to do this is to increase the basic rate of Levy and include bets taken on overseas racing to put our sport on a level playing field with other jurisdictions.”

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