On-course bookmakers ‘concerned’ about age-verification failures

Following the announcement that seven UK on-course bookmakers would be having their licences reviewed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), representatives from the racing sector have called for further information on age verification measures to address under-age gambling. 

The seven bookmakers had reportedly allowed a 16-year old to place a bet at this year’s Royal Ascot, which took place in June. 

Despite the UK-wide policy of ‘Think 21’ being implemented across racecourses, the sector has come under fire for supposedly failing to carry out thorough age-checks. 

However, after speaking to a number of representatives from the sector, on-course bookmakers are carrying out checks to ensure that under-aged persons are unable to place a bet. 

Previously, racecourses such as Doncaster have trialled wristbands for those over the age of 18, helping track employees distinguish punters, however, the trial was reportedly unsuccessful and inefficient. 

One of the challenges faced by on-course bookmakers is the lack of age-barriers for what is often marketed as a ‘family day out’. 

An event such as Royal Ascot diverse group of ages, with turn-out reaching in excess of 300,000 people – which creates difficulties for on-course bookmakers to distinguish which punters are over the age of 18.

Speaking to Christopher Hudson, President of The British Racecourse Bookmakers’ Association, he explained: “Obviously we are all concerned about the number of Bookies failing the Age Verification test at Royal Ascot as this Association has worked closely for many years with the UKGC to improve pass rates in this unique sector. 

“I say unique as in our sector unlike the remote sector and other land-based operators such as casinos and betting shops we don’t have a barrier to refuse entry to the premises where we take bets.

“In the normal course of events most on course, bookies have a think 21 policy and train their staff accordingly at specific training courses provided by the trade associations. This is the BRBA’s recommended operating procedure and members are provided with supporting signage to help them.”

Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers director, Robin Grossmith, also explained that the on-course sector is taking part in educational initiatives and age-verification training to ensure that the ‘pass-rate’ improves. He expressed hope that the licence reviews would act as a “wake-up call” for on-course firms.

Grossmith emphasised that the FRB has established a long-term relationship with independent test purchase service Serve Legal to enforce the current Think 21 policy, while also rolling out four nation-wide seminars in collaboration with the UKGC and Serve Legal. 

While it is thought that the current initiatives are ‘demonstrating that bookmakers are doing everything they can’ to improve age-verification checks, it highlights the need for further information for on-course bookmakers. 

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