An opinion poll commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has uncovered public opposition to government-mandated betting limits.
The poll, conducted by YouGov, surveyed 1,683 adults from across the UK, finding that 51% were in opposition to the establishment of arbitrary bet limits by politicians, with 27% in favour.
A second question also revealed that 59% of respondents agreed that ‘if there are too many limits placed on people to bet’ then they would switch to unlicensed and illegal black market operators, whilst 10% disagreed with the statement.
This information follows a report published by PwC last month, which found that the amount staked with illicit black market sports betting and casino operators had doubled from £1.4 billion to £2.8 billion, whilst the number of UK punters wagering with these websites had increased from 210,000 to 460,000.
“My view is that limits are good, which is why people betting are now strongly encouraged to set their own limits on how much they spend,” said Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council.
“Affordability checks are also a good thing. But technology enables betting companies to see where customers are starting to display what we call ‘markers of harm’. In this way, potential problem gamblers and others who may be more at risk could be subject to enhanced affordability checks.
“Such a move would potentially also have serious ramifications for horse racing in particular, which relies heavily on the money it receives from the betting levy.”
Concerns over the reduction of the betting levy and an exodus of customers to black market sites have resulted in a strong response from both the BGC and licensed operators regarding the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
It is estimated that the betting levy generated £350 million per year for horse racing alone, whilst industry figures have predicted a potential £60 million loss for the sport as a consequence of stricter regulations.
However, the UKGC has repeatedly criticised claims regarding the prevalence of black market operators, describing the impact of such unlicensed sites as ‘exaggerated’.
As well as commissioning the YouGov opinion poll, the BGC conducted 20 focus grounds between November and February in locations including Long Eaton, Mansfield, Dudley, Walsall, Warrington, Doncaster, Oldham, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Stoke, London, Richmond-on-Thames, Birmingham, Durham, Wakefield, Blackpool and St Helens.
The BGC maintains that these focus groups found ‘that betting is already a normal social and leisure pastime for millions of Brits’, whilst also revealing that a number of voters in these areas ‘are way of post-COVID mission creep, with the state wanting to impose more control on how they live their lives’.
Many of the areas in which these focus groups were carried out were among the 50 parliamentary seats that formed part of the former ‘Red Wall’ that switched from Labour to Conservative in the 2019 General Election
“I hope politicians will also take heed of the findings and listen to voters in Northern and Midlands marginal seats – who will be key to the result of the next election – who are wary of being told by Westminster how to live their lives, especially in the wake of the Covid pandemic,” Dugher concluded.
“The BGC fully supports the Gambling Review and we want to see big changes, but it’s important that ministers get those changes right.”