More than 85,000 sign online document calling for checks laid out in government’s white paper to be scrapped
The government has said it plans to go ahead with the implementation of affordability checks despite calls from the industry for the proposal to be scrapped.
The affordability checks are part of the white paper into the Gambling Act 2005 review, published in April.
Under UK law, the government must respond to any petition that accumulates over 10,000 signatures. A petition which gathers 100,000 signatures is obliged to be considered for debate in parliament.
The petition urging the government to halt the incoming measure, instigated by Jockey Club CEO Nevin Truesdale on 1 November, surpassed 10,000 signatures in 24 hours and, at the time of writing, is fewer that 14,000 signatures away from 100,000.
With the criteria for a response from the government having been met, the political authority responded to the calls to abandon its affordability proposals in a statement on 16 November, saying it was working alongside the Gambling Commission to “ensure the checks can be implemented in an effective but proportionate way”.
The statement read: “While the Gambling Commission does not currently have specific requirements or thresholds, we know that operators are applying inconsistent ‘affordability’ checks on a number of customers, often without being clear on why the checks are happening, and normally requiring customers to provide data manually.
“We have challenged operators to be more transparent with customers in the interim, but the proposed system will be a significant improvement in having clear and proportionate rules which all operators are held to, and allowing for financial data to be shared seamlessly with operators instead of burdening customers with information requests.
“Both the government and the Gambling Commission have been clear that we would not mandate the checks proposed in the consultation until we are sure that they will be frictionless for the vast majority of customers who would be checked,” the government’s response added.
The proposals for the affordability checks consist of two levels, the first being ‘light-touch’ checks for a net loss of £125 within a rolling 30-day period or £500 within a rolling 365 days.
The second, a more enhanced higher-level check, will kick in when a player has a net loss of more than £1,000 in a rolling 24 hour period or £2,000 in a rolling 90 days.
A statement accompanying the petition noted: “We accept the need to help those with problem gambling but more intrusive checks triggered at a higher threshold risks bettors moving to the black market where there are no consumer protections or safer gambling tools.”
The government’s statement continued: “Finally, this petition raises the important link between betting and horseracing.
“The government recognises the enormous value of horseracing as both a spectator sport and through its economic contribution.
“The white paper’s estimate was that financial risk checks will reduce online horserace betting yield by 6% to 11%, which would in turn reduce racing’s income by £8.4m to £14.9m per year (0.5% to 1% of its total income) through a reduction in levy, media rights and sponsorship returns.
“We are working with racing and refining that estimate. We have also commenced a review of the Horserace Betting Levy to ensure a suitable return to the sport for the future,” it said.
All petitions created on the parliament site run for six months, therefore this appeal has until May 2024 to reach the 100,000 signatures needed to be considered for debate in parliament.