Affordability checks will be discussed in the UK’s parliament on 26 February following a petition calling to halt their implementation. Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale initiated the petition in early-November, which opposed the widespread introduction of financial checks outlined in the Gambling Act review white paper.

The petition quickly gained momentum and by the end of November, it had garnered over 100,000 signatures, meeting the threshold for parliament discussion. A debate has been scheduled for 26 February after it was discussed in Westminster Hall last Tuesday.

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), commented on the petition’s success, stating that it reflects the shared concern of bettors over the proposed checks. While acknowledging the need to protect individuals from gambling-related harm, it was emphasized that millions of people enjoy betting on horseracing without negative effects.

The BHA intends to work towards changes in the Gambling Commission’s proposals on affordability checks to protect the sport’s financial future and limit the impact on racing bettors.

The affordability checks outlined in the white paper have faced significant industry criticism. Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, noted that financial checks were dominating responses to the white paper consultations. A survey found that almost half of respondents were prepared to turn to the black market if affordability checks were implemented, although Rhodes claimed these arguments were overstated.

The Jockey Club estimated that affordability checks could cost the racing industry £250 million over the next five years and claimed that bettors may have to prove they can afford to gamble if they lose £1.37 a day.

In response to the opposition towards affordability checks, Rhodes highlighted the Patterns of Play research, stating that the most profitable one percent accounts for the majority of gross gambling yield. However, the issue remains in the definition of an ‘active’ and ‘dormant’ account, as many accounts are only used a few times a year for major betting events.

The release of the white paper in April 2023 committed to increasing regulatory powers to combat illegal gambling in the UK. However, there are concerns that affordability checks may drive vulnerable players towards the black market, with industry experts warning that it could encourage illegal operators within Britain.

There is a growing call for collaborative efforts within the industry to identify and prosecute illegal gambling activities and to find solutions that do not drive bettors to engage with operators outside the jurisdiction of the Gambling Commission.

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