UK Gambling Commission Chief Tussles With Racing Post Over Affordability

September 20, 2023
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UK Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes has criticised the Racing Post in an open letter, claiming the racing publication’s “imbalanced” coverage was leading readers to “misunderstandings” about the impact of betting affordability checks.
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UK Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes has criticised the Racing Post in an open letter, claiming the racing publication’s “imbalanced” coverage was leading readers to “misunderstandings” about the impact of betting affordability checks.

The London-based publication has campaigned for months against the financial risk checks, saying bettors would move to the black market or stop betting if asked to supply pay slips and bank statements to prove they can afford their bets.

Rhodes hit back on Tuesday (September 19), saying that checks would not be mandatory at such restricted levels until they are “frictionless” for the “vast majority”.

“Readers could easily assume — based on the volume and nature of the coverage — that under the proposals a good proportion of gambling consumers would have to be handing over pay slips or bank statements when they want to place a bet,” Rhodes wrote.

He repeated assertions that only 3 percent of bettors would need financial risk assessments and only a tenth of those would be asked for the more intrusive checks, or 0.3 percent.

A consultation on the proposals closes on October 18. 

In response, Racing Post editor Tom Kerr said the publication “welcomed” a letter about its proposals but “we told the GC we were unwilling to publish a letter if it misrepresented disagreements over our coverage as errors of fact”.

“That is precisely what this letter does,” he said in a statement.

“It simply repeats contentious assertions from the white paper and consultation without engaging with the numerous concerns raised by Racing Post readers and contributors. In fact, it dismisses those concerns as groundless.”

He asked Rhodes for an interview to discuss the issues.

The publication has run a feature, “Affordability: Your Stories”, which recently featured pull-out quotes like “Who the hell came up with this idea in the first place? It must be the small minority who don’t like gambling”, and “I sent my tax calculation, savings account, and valuation of stocks and shares, and it did me no good whatsoever”.

Affordability seems like a high-stakes issue for the regulator, with politicians weighing in, including a succession of Cabinet members assigned to gambling issues as part of their portfolio serving a series of Conservative prime ministers.

On September 7, Rhodes published a blog outlining what he called “misconceptions” surrounding affordability checks. 

The purported basis for the 0.3 percent estimate includes an assertion that “only where there is no credit file and the customer chooses not to consent to sharing of data via open banking would they be asked to provide other evidence of financial circumstances to allow risk to be considered”. 

Also active on the issue is the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), which in March touted a YouGov survey it commissioned which said that 80 percent of bettors agreed that affordability restrictions would drive gamblers to black market sites.

A BGC spokesperson declined to comment on the open letter, but one former gambling executive did weigh in.

Obviously the Gambling Commission should have a right to reply to criticism, “but one thing that makes me very uncomfortable with this response is that a vastly higher proportion of regular Racing Post readers will require checks under the proposals being consulted on”, wrote Richard Flint, former CEO of Sky Betting & Gaming and now board member at Flutter Entertainment.

“It’s disingenuous to cite average percentages without qualification in a response to this group,” he wrote on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

Charles Cohen, CEO of Department of Trust know-your-customer B2B company, said he has “sympathy” for bettors.

“The quality of frictionless checks which operators have had to put up with until now is pretty poor, and produce so many false positives that it’s no wonder so many people (particularly in racing) are being asked for documents,” he said.

“The good news is that a new generation of frictionless check is coming, thanks to [open banking] changes, and operators will be able to use these to ensure most people sail through, and very few errors will occur."

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