gambling regulations
New regulations on affordability checks represent a hard-earned success, but worries persist

New regulations on affordability checks represent a hard-earned success, but worries persist

The new code, which states that financial documents should not be required before net deposits of £25,000 per annum, represents a positive step in the right direction. This change does not roll back affordability checks, nor does it undo the damage already caused, but it does leave a number of questions unanswered. It is important to note that not long ago, the Gambling Commission proposed triggering affordability checks at a spend of just £100 a month. Since then, inconsistent, intrusive, and opaque checks have been implemented across major bookmakers, prompting resistance from a coalition of politicians, academics, regulators, and media.

Gradually, the arguments against sweeping affordability checks have been acknowledged, leading to the interim code on checks. This was the result of extensive discussions between the Betting and Gaming Council, the Gambling Commission, and the government, recognizing that the status quo was unsustainable. The pressure from racing, its media, a small group of parliamentary allies, and its fans and followers has been influential in bringing about this change. The concerns raised have been listened to, and credit is due to Ministers Lucy Frazer and Stuart Andrew for taking action.

However, it should not be assumed that the problems with checks are fully resolved. Though the new thresholds are higher compared to the white paper proposals, they will still affect high-staking punters, upon which racing’s income relies heavily. Anti-money laundering checks will continue to cause confusion and frustration for punters unless they are addressed separately. The prospect of enhanced checks is also a concern, with uncertainties about their implementation and impact.

The damage caused by checks cannot be reversed by this belated change. Betting turnover and revenue to racing have declined significantly since the introduction of checks, with thousands of responsible bettors inconvenienced and some potentially turning to the black market in response. Despite these challenges, the interim checks code is a positive step towards resolving an avoidable problem. The hope is that bookmakers, the government, and the Gambling Commission will pursue a balanced approach that protects consumers’ rights to gamble without excessive interference.

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