Letter to MPs calls for Gambling Commission to rethink betting review

A template letter to MPs, the author of which is not yet known, has called on lawmakers to pressure the Gambling Commission to rethink its current betting review due to the financial impact on horse racing.

The sport is set to be dealt a heavy blow by potential gambling reforms, in the form of a possible £60 million loss, at a time when the industry is already struggling as a result of COVID-19 related financial difficulties.

As reported in The Guardian, the letter focuses in particular on the impact gambler affordability checks could have on horse racing’s monetary situation. It is expected that the UK’s 59 racecourses will forward the letter to MPs.

The Gambling Commission’s deadline for feedback on the possible changes to its regulations has been rescheduled to 9 February due to the body experiencing ‘high engagement’ since consultation began in November.

It is looking increasingly likely that requirements for conducting affordability checks on customers will be introduced under the new regulations, with the Commission stating that a loss of £100 a month is being touted as the ‘lowest possible threshold’.

The author of the letter has argued that ‘skill-based’ betting on horse racing should be differentiated from the gambling products available on online casinos – such as slots and virtual table-based games – as it is less likely to trigger addictive gambling habits.

It also claims that British racing’s fixtures and scheduling is ‘designed to provide a fair, safe and compelling betting product that has both stood the test of time and evolved with society’.

A significant section of the letter printed in The Guardian reads: “I am reliably informed that the proposals put forward by the Gambling Commission could result in more than £60 million in direct losses to the British racing industry from reduced Horserace Betting Levy and media rights income. This would be amplified many times over through the wider rural economy and potentially lead to racecourses closing.

“The Gambling Commission’s proposed action would be disproportionate to the small number of people who suffer harm from betting on racing, as well as being a very significant invasion on personal liberty in the free society in which we live. At a time when racing and the British economy are trying to recover from COVID-19, a rushed intervention like this would also significantly set back recovery.

“Naturally, I have grave concerns about this and would welcome your support in calling for the Gambling Commission to rethink introducing this measure, ensure it is evidence-based and, at the very least, ensure that the decision-making process aligns with the government’s recently launched review of the Gambling Act.”

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has not commented on the letter, as it is believed that the organisation’s officials are still assessing and analysing the potential financial impact that reforms may have.

However, Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, David Armstrong, said: “We’ve done this on a few other issues, including at some points during the COVID crisis, where we do ask our MPs to help us, MPs with racecourses or training yards in their constituencies, we often ask them for help in this way.”

Defending the ongoing review into the industry’s regulations, a Gambling Commission spokesperson said: “Whilst some operators have continued to improve their customer interaction processes, our evidence shows that many online operators are not setting thresholds for action at appropriate levels. 

“They are not taking the appropriate action or acting quickly enough when they do identify risks of potential harm. We are clear on the need for gambling companies to take further action and our consultation proposes that the Commission sets firm requirements to ensure consistent standards. 

“But we want to have an open discussion with the gambling industry, consumers, people with lived experience and other stakeholders, to ensure we strike the right balance between allowing consumer freedom and ensuring that there are protections in place to prevent gambling harm.”

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