A key racing stakeholder has detailed that the consequences of the Gambling Act Review may not be as damning as some fear, arguing that ‘the message coming out of Westminster is more positive than the actions in the world’.
Speaking to the Racing Post, Charlie Parker, Chief Executive of the Thoroughbred Group and Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), confirmed that he had been in discussions with Gambling Minister Paul Scully.
Having met Scully alongside the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Parker stated politicians’ hints at the future of gambling suggested less of an impact on the industry than some stakeholders fear.
He did, however, take aim at certain policies currently in use – such as affordability checks, the extension of which has been touted as a potential key outcome of the 2005 Gambling Act review.
“I know the BHA met with the Minister and met with the Gambling Commission, and it looks as if what the politicians are going to come up with is not as perhaps scary as some of the stuff that is going on at the behest of the Gambling Commission,” he said.
“Personally, I think the idea of governments or quangos telling people what they can and can’t spend their money on is frankly bizarre. It’s ridiculous, it’s mad and the unintended consequences for British racing, and for other funded sports, could be significant.
“The message coming out of Westminster is more positive than the actions in the world, so the sooner that catches up the better.”
Affordability checks have been long-touted as a potential outcome of the 2005 Gambling Act review, which is due to conclude with a White Paper publication in the coming months.
Parker’s assertion that the notion of companies probing customer’s personal finances is bizarre is an opinion that has often been reiterated by the UK horse racing industry over the past two years.
Two months after the review began, The Jockey Club Chief Executive Nevin Truesdale and Arena Racing Company (ARC) Chief Executive Martin Cruddace put forward a ‘worst case estimate’ of £100m in losses to racing, should £100 monthly loss limits be adopted.
Meanwhile, bettors Chris Littlewood and Mervyn Sheppard explained to the Post in a separate article that they had been contacted by the UK Tote Group and bet365 asking for proof of income, with both expressing dissatisfaction with the process.
A statement in the paper from UK Tote Group CEO Alex Frost read: “Our obligation to look after customers is paramount and we continue to operate within the guidelines set out by the Gambling Commission.”
Voicing a more vocal opinion, however, was Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, who fired some shots towards the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), describing the regulator as ‘out of control’ and
“In this review process we have the bookmakers lobbying hard, the anti-gambling campaigners lobbying hard and it seems the punters themselves are being excluded from the process,” he said.
“It is clear that the Gambling Commission – whose leaders know nothing about gambling – are out of control and the gambling review must curtail their extremism. It is time people, including the Gambling Commission, listened to the punters, but I am afraid that at the moment it is not fit fr purpose.”
The MP continued to accuse the Commission of failing to understand gamblers, adding that the regulator ‘cannot tell the difference between games of chance and betting with skill’, and as a result is ‘imposing’ itself on punters.
A long-time advocate of betting and gaming, Philips – along with his wife and fellow Conservative MP Esther McVey – has been criticised for his alleged close relationship with the industry in the past.
According to the Westminster Accounts project earlier this month, Davies earned £49,000 from GVC Holdings (now Entain) and received gifts and benefits from a range of stakeholders worth £12,730 between December 2019-December 2020.