Skip to main content

Gambling Reform under debate......cont'd

We published an article on 26 February 2024 referencing the parliamentary debate that was taking place that day as a result of a petition seeking the abandonment of proposed affordability checks.

The debate was well attended, cross-party, and lasted a significant part of the afternoon / evening.

The number of politicians present demonstrated the importance of this subject, with a general agreement from all sides of the debate that racing should not be damaged by the proposed reforms.

There is a concern that enforcing the proposed affordability checks will lead the most vulnerable of punters to a gambling black market, which will afford them no protection, and in seeking to afford this protection a more dangerous landscape will be created for people with an unhealthy need to gamble.

Politicians, whose constituencies include Newmarket, Epsom, Haydock and Cheltenham – iconic racecourses – were present to put forward arguments related to the destructive impact the proposed checks would have on local employment as well as to separate the rules applicable to racing from those applicable to games of chance as horse-racing is a skill-based event as opposed to a high-speed game of chance such as a casino app or online slots games.

It is important to note that there have been gambling checks in place since 2019 when the Gambling Commission required operators to assess affordability, and there were further revisions to the Commission’s guidance for remote operators in 2022 and 2023. However, the gambling white paper made the standardisation of the checks policy in April 2023 when the proposals were published for the financial risk checks which were the subject of the debate. 

To understand why there is such strength of feeling around the checks, the first tier of checks comes into effect when a customer has a net spend of £125 over 30 days, or £500 over a year – this equates to just £1.37 per day, the equivalent of a third of a cup of coffee from your local barista!

These initial checks are non-intrusive and based on information in the public domain, however there is not enough information available in the public domain to prohibit vulnerable individuals from gambling on sites which are required to provide them with consumer protection which is where many have grave reservations the proposed checks will deliver what they intend to.

Andrew Cotton, Senior Associate in Irwin Mitchell’s Regulatory and Compliance Group, comments as follows having watched the debate:

“I was very impressed by the quality of the contributions from all sides of the House of Commons. The debate was launched by the member for Neath, who provided an extremely good summary of the issues. There were a considerable number of interventions but in the main these were endorsed by the member speaking and demonstrated that this is not a party-political issue. Matt Hancock, the member for Newmarket was effective at highlighting the fine and difficult balance between not dictating levels of spend for those participating in betting online on racing as opposed to high-speed, addictive online casino games where greater protections were required. He referenced his time in government in overseeing both the reduction in stakes on B2 machines when Culture Secretary and the launch of the additional 15 gambling addiction treatment centres when Health Secretary. Over 7000 people are employed in the racing industry in his constituency, and he highlighted the potentially devastating consequences of the checks driving punters to the black market. In closing the debate, the Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew confirmed that the proposals in the White Paper to provide the Gambling Commission with greater powers to block and suspend websites were now before Parliament in the Criminal Justice Bill laid on 14th November 2023. The minister also made clear that there was no intention to extend financial risk checks to the land-based sectors.”

What to do next? 

We offer comprehensive legal services to businesses in the gambling sector. Our dedicated regulatory and compliance team is able to advise on all matters related to UK gaming, gambling, alcohol and events licensing as well as financial crime and financial services regulations.

To learn more about the consultations listed here and the latest regulatory requirements for your business, please contact Andrew Cotton