Matt Hancock, the former Secretary of State for Health, has outlined his support for the horse racing sector ahead of the Gambling Act review judgement, as reported by the Racing Post.
Expected sometime this spring, the government’s overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act aims to address major changes in the British betting and gaming industry, notably the rise of online gambling.
Enhanced affordability checks have been touted as a potential outcome of the review, and although Gambling Minister Chris Philp stated last year that £100 deposit limits would be ‘unnecessary’, both the betting and racing industries have expressed concerns about the impact this could have. – Racing stakeholders have calculated potential losses of £60 million.
As the MP for West Suffolk, which includes Newmarket racecourse, Hancock represents some racing stakeholders. The former Minister was responsible for green-lighting the imposition of £2 stake limits on FOBTs in 2019, but has called for caution on the upcoming overhaul of Britain’s gambling legislation.
“Representing Newmarket, you understand both sides of the equation,” Hancock remarked. “Firstly, the harm that problem gambling can cause – and I’ve made my stand over this in the past as regards FOBTs. On the other hand, there is the joy that horseracing can bring and gambling is a key part of that pursuit.
“For most people, gambling is an enjoyable pastime but you’ve also got to protect against those for whom it becomes a life-affecting addiction.”
With the publication of the Gambling Act White Paper due soon, Hancock informed the Post that he has spoken to Philp about the importance of ‘striking a balance’ between player protection and ensuring racing still receives substantial financial support via the betting levy.
The MP added: “The point of the gambling review is to try and bring the legislation up into the modern age, but I made it clear to the minister that while I understand and agree with the need to protect people from problem gambling, we must not undermine the horseracing industry in doing that. It’s about striking a balance.”
In a previous interview with the Racing Post, Hancock called for the UK government to address perceived ‘loopholes’ in the betting levy, arguing that it should be based on turnover and not gross profits.
Under the current requirements of the levy, UK bookmakers contribute 10% of their profits to the sport of horse racing – however, Hancock’s argument has been shared by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and racecourses throughout the country.
Hancock is not the only MP to voice his opinion on the Gambling Act review, as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – whose Richmond, North Yorkshire constituency includes Catterick racecourse – has been reported to be closely monitoring developments.
Additionally, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has released a series of videos featuring MPs expressing their support for the betting sector, including Gedling MP Tom Randall, Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker and Blackpool South MP Scott Benton.