Andrew Rhodes tells industry execs the conversation around horseracing’s future has become “very bitter”
Gambling Commission (GC) CEO Andrew Rhodes has said there is a “point of principle disagreement” between the regulator and some industry figures regarding affordability checks.
Speaking at a gambling CEO briefing this week, Rhodes spoke at length in front of gathered executives, touching on the proposed checks as well as a host of other burning industry topics.
Rhodes explained the regulator does not have a “commercial interest” in the industry and it must remain “impartial”, he then proceeded to move onto the debate surrounding the future of horseracing in the UK.
The CEO said the GC needed to find the balance between “protecting those who need it and not infringing on the rights of those who do not”.
He continued: “That brings me to horseracing and what has become an exceptionally difficult and sometimes very bitter debate.”
Rhodes proceeded to take aim at those calling for a blanket ban on affordability checks, with a recent petition launched by The Jockey Club CEO Nevin Truesdale which has garnered more than 76,000 signatures at the time of writing.
He said: “The current campaign from many in the horseracing industry is to petition that there should be no checks at all on how affordable someone’s gambling is on horseracing.
“This is a point of principle disagreement – it does not matter whether checks are frictionless or not, the point of the argument is there should be no checks at all.
“The call being made here is for unlimited and, quite literally, unchecked gambling losses on a sport, to support the growth and continuation of that sport,” the GC CEO added.
Rhodes stressed that on-course bookmakers will not be subject to checks and that proposals laid out in the white paper into the 2005 Gambling Act review will not apply to the land-based sector.
On the future of horseracing, Rhodes noted the intrinsic link between the sport and betting, but argued that it was not down to the GC to revitalise the sport.
He said: “There are people and organisations in this room today that have spoken publicly and privately about the challenges facing horseracing as a gambling product, which have nothing to do with financial risk at all.
“How racing innovates, attracts future audiences, addresses falling attendance numbers and provides something consumers want to bet on that competes with the massive offering they have on other sports and games, is for others and not the Commission.
“However, horseracing is unique in its relationship with gambling and has a critical dependency on gambling as a funding stream. If less people lose money betting on horseracing, the income into horseracing goes down. Media rights are again linked to betting, so even where racing has income that is not derived from the levy, it is nonetheless connected.”
On affordability checks, Rhodes highlighted the measures have been proposed because, in the past, there were “too many examples of clearly unaffordable gambling taking place with little or no intervention”.
Rhodes continued: “The perennial challenge in gambling regulation, as set out in the Act, is the balance between individual choice and protecting those who are now being harmed. The Act liberalised gambling in this country and we now have one of the largest and most liberalised gambling industries in the world – certainly online.
“The Act is very clear in its obligation on the regulator to aim to permit gambling. However, that is subject to the licensing objectives being satisfied, including that the vulnerable are protected – they are not intended to be an either/or – they are intended to be balanced. That will be a crucial consideration for government in the coming months.”