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Gambling Affordability Checks: Could They Damage Racing?

In the world of British horse racing, three emerging trainers from Newmarket have joined the growing chorus of voices expressing concerns about the potentially "damaging" long-term effects of affordability checks.

Last week, prominent figures across the racing industry issued a warning to the UK government, stating that these checks could cost the sport a staggering £250 million over the next five years. They called for the formal introduction of these checks to be halted.

The ongoing consultation by the Gambling Commission, which encompasses the proposals in the gambling review white paper, is set to conclude shortly. Among the considerations is the requirement for bookmakers to conduct checks on customers who incur losses as small as £125 in 30 days or £500 in a year. An additional tier of more comprehensive checks would be implemented for punters with net losses of £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.

Renowned trainer George Scott expressed that these checks could potentially become the "single most destructive act" against British racing. George Boughey and James Ferguson have also raised concerns about the far-reaching implications of these checks.

Scott stated, "It's going to affect everyone from top to bottom. The industry is a massive employer and it's financially struggling as it is. Asking people for their bank details is incredibly intrusive and could drive a lot of people to bet with the black market or walk away from betting on racing altogether. I understand the need to combat problem gambling, but surely we can invest more money into looking at patterns of problem gambling rather than completely wiping out a large percentage of the industry's finances. It's incredibly worrying and has been disruptive already."

Under pressure from the Gambling Commission, bookmakers have already implemented their own affordability checks. Consequently, a number of racehorse owners have expressed their reservations about participating in the sport, as they are required to divulge personal financial information before placing a bet. Similarly, two prominent figures in the bloodstock industry have also sounded warnings about a potential decline in ownership.

Boughey remarked, "It's pretty clear to see how this is going to affect our sport. Is there any other walk of life where you are restricted from spending your own money? No one is stopped from going on holiday, buying clothes, or any other luxuries.

Thankfully, I haven't lost any owners yet due to the affordability checks, but I'm sure this isn't helping to encourage people into British racing, let alone to reinvest in it."

James Ferguson, who made his debut as a trainer in 2019, believes it's now the responsibility of Members of Parliament representing constituencies with racing ties to recognize the bigger picture and the potential harm these checks could inflict on the sport.

Ferguson stated, "Obviously these checks are going to be detrimental to British racing, but it's one thing for us trainers to say what we think. It's actually the role of the MPs who have racecourses or training centres in their constituencies to ensure common sense prevails. Unless they see the bigger picture, then nothing is going to change." Taking The Reins (the blog for Purple Reins Racing) would love to hear your thoughts on this massive subject.

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