Chancellor Raises Racing Industry Concerns Over UK Gambling Review

March 21, 2022
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has raised concerns that the review of UK gambling laws could have a dramatic impact on the racing industry.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has raised concerns that the review of UK gambling laws could have a dramatic impact on the racing industry.

Sunak has written to culture secretary Nadine Dorries to raise worries on behalf of the horseracing industry.

The MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire wrote to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to raise the case of Catterick racecourse, which is in his constituency.

The Sunday Times reported that Sunak told John Sanderson, managing director of the course, that he had contacted the culture department to "raise with them the specific questions" related to the racing industry.

It followed a letter from Sanderson that highlighted modelling from British Racing suggesting that blanket affordability checks could lead to losses of more than £60m a year for the sport.

Sanderson called for the horseracing industry to be taken into account in the Gambling Act review.

"Betting on horseracing is not simple gambling like a casino ... it's a matter of using one's judgment," he said.

"Machines, online casinos and scratchcards are just games of chance, and are far more addictive to a person with a gambling-related problem. That was my message to Rishi."

In February, Michael Dugher, the chief executive of gaming industry trade body the Betting and Gaming Council, warned British racing faces a “clear and present danger” if the government gets changes to gambling law wrong.

He said the next few weeks before the review is published were "absolutely critical" to the sport's future and stakeholders within the sport needed to stop squabbling among themselves.

"Racing without betting simply wouldn't exist," he added. "The racing industry needs to get real and understand that, realise that our fight is their fight and the coming weeks are absolutely critical to their future."

The review of the Gambling Act is expected to introduce more stringent checks on whether customers can afford to lose the bets they are placing. It will also look at reforms to advertising and sponsorships with the aim of increasing protection for vulnerable customers.

It is understood the increased checks on affordability could include requiring customers to upload payslips or bank statements when they make bets online — a move critics claim could drive punters away from licensed operators.

Political and industry sources expect there to be friction between the Treasury and the DCMS over the level at which these affordability checks are introduced.

The gambling industry contributes almost £3bn in tax each year, largely on bookmakers' profits. That total seems certain to plummet at a time when the government is under financial pressure, with the chancellor facing calls to do more for families in the wake of rising household costs.

Earlier this month, Chris Philp, the minister in charge of gambling policy, said reform was “long overdue” and said although he could not reveal the contents of the white paper, he warned lawmakers are backing “significant reform”.

The Treasury said: "The chancellor's parliamentary office passed on his constituent's correspondence to DCMS requesting a government response to their concern — as is normal for any MP, minister or Cabinet minister to do."

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