Financial Risks Checks To Be Scrutinised In Westminster

January 16, 2024
The UK parliament must debate the future of gambling affordability after a petition demanding an end to plans for mandatory financial risk checks passed 100,000 signatures.

The UK parliament must debate the future of gambling affordability after a petition demanding an end to plans for mandatory financial risk checks passed 100,000 signatures.

The petition has been running since Autumn 2023 and garnered enough responses in November to warrant an official response from the government.

At that time, the Department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport (DCMS) said it was “a strong supporter of horseracing, and recognises that it is not the job of either the government or the Gambling Commission to tell people how to spend their money”.

However, it said it was looking to “balance this freedom” with protecting the public from gambling harm.

“We are committed to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks, to protect those at risk of harm without over regulating. The Gambling Commission will set out plans in due course,” the department said.

Politicians now must discuss the plans in parliament, after the petition accrued more than 100,000 signatures and the debate has been set for February 26.

The success of the petition, organised by proponents of the racing industry, demonstrates the intensity of the debate around affordability in the UK, particularly within pro-racing circles.

By its estimation, the government believes that introducing affordability checks would cost the horseracing industry as much as £14.9m in revenue, through a reduction in the racing levy, media rights and sponsorships.

Despite these projected losses and other complaints, the government and the Gambling Commission have continued to push forward with plans and insist that fears of a massive impact to racing and dire warnings of players flocking to the black market are overblown.

Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes has even felt compelled to issue public statements in support of the plans for financial risk assessments, saying that critiques of the project are dominated by “misinformation”.

But the prospect of affordability checks on gamblers has been controversial since they were first proposed by the Gambling Commission, at a time before the Gambling Act review had even begun, and years before the white paper eventually emerged.

The regulator received tens of thousands of responses to a consultation on its proposals and eventually recognised that the issue was so fractious it needed to be handed over to the government and subsumed into the white paper.

However, unrest has continued to simmer and despite frequently waving away criticisms of financial checks since the plans were unveiled in the white paper last year, both the commission and government have made clear moves since then to attempt to combat concerns.

The commission announced recently that it is set to begin an industry-led working group that will aid with the development of the technology required to undertake the checks and their potential impact on players.

Stuart Andrew, the government minister for gambling, has also promised fellow parliamentarians that affordability will not become a mandatory requirement for UK licence holders until officials are confident that they are truly “frictionless”.

But industry figures have expressed doubts about the regulations and have pointed out that technical solutions to deliver “frictionless” checks on gambler’s spending power are currently few and far between.

The revamped consultation on risk checks, which closed late last year, has again received thousands of responses. The regulator is currently reviewing feedback before issuing its final plans for new licence conditions.

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