Racing Post survey ‘creates ominous picture’ for post-White Paper betting landscape

Racing Post survey ‘creates ominous picture’ for post-White Paper betting landscape

UK gambling industry stakeholders must prepare for a ‘sobering statistic’, the Racing Post has argued, following the recent publication of its Big Punting Survey of 10,400 British and Irish bettors. 

Affordability check discontent

The Spotlight Sports Group (SSG) racing media outlet found disillusionment with the prospect of enhanced affordability checks; 17% of UK respondents and 13% of Ireland ones said they had been asked to undertake one. 

Of the total figure, 55% said they had refused to do so, while 38% of those who did said that they did not receive ‘what they regarded as a satisfactory deposit limit’.

When asked if they would comply with an affordability check, of those who had not yet experienced one only 12.8% ‘indicated’ that they would, in comparison to 66.5% who said they would not.

Although the Gambling Act review White Paper is yet to be published, the Racing Post has reportedly cited figures suggesting bookmakers have been increasing their affordability checks in response to potential tighter government regulation.

In a recent interview with Racing TV, UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes asserted that the regulator has not mandated affordability checks, but has reminded the industry of player protection policies and procedures.

Racing Post Editor and Group Racing Director, Tom Kerr, said: “These results offer startling evidence of the degree to which affordability checks are already affecting a wide range of racing bettors and how few are willing to provide the sensitive financial documents requested by bookmakers. 

“Even when some punters do reluctantly engage with the checks, less than one in two is left satisfied by the process.”

Further showcasing customer disapproval of checks, 97% of respondents believed that they were best placed to control their betting spend limit, and not the government, UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) or bookmakers.

The Post explained that although affordability checks have been dropped as a potential measure in Ireland, which is also moving ahead with betting re-regulation, customers in both countries were asked due to the cross-border interconnected nature of the racing and betting industries.

Black market interest

On black market operations, the Post reported that only a small number of respondents had used one in the past 12 months at 3.8%, whilst 11% knew someone who had bet with an unlicensed firm.

However, the outlet predicts that disenchantment with affordability checks could drive punters to the unregulated sector, a concern that has been repeatedly highlighted by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

A total of 22.11% said they would consider using a black market firm and 11.29% said that they would ‘definitely take that option’, although the single largest number said they would simply stop betting entirely (36.48%).

Regardless, either outcome would result in the regulated space experiencing a decline in revenues, doing little to sooth the worries of some racing stakeholders who believe that affordability checks could negatively affect the sports finances via the betting levy.

“If you extrapolate these results across the wider racing audience, it creates an ominous picture for the sport and the regulated betting market in Britain,” Kerr continued.

“It’s clear bettors are increasingly turning to the black market, where onerous affordability checks are as absent as all other forms of player protection. 

“Based on these findings, it’s likely that tens of thousands of bettors and hundreds of millions of pounds in betting turnover have already shifted to unregulated and untaxed offshore bookmakers.”

Crunching the numbers

Lastly, the report also highlighted that, unsurprisingly, those with higher incomes were more likely to be targeted by affordability checks.

Those with an annual household income under £30k a year had a check rate of 12.76%, followed by 15.02% for £30-49k, 24.35% for £100-199k and 38.69% for those over £200k.

Younger bettors were also more likely to face checks – again, this may come as unsurprising due to the recent safer gambling focus on younger demographics – at 27.94% for the 18-24 bracket. 

Lastly, on stakes, similar to incomes the ratio rose according to the amount wagered, with those betting £1 experiencing a check rate of 6.75%, followed by £5 punters at 9.68%, £10 at 15.4%, £25 at 21.39% and £250 at 47.67%.

Whilst this may not come as much of a shock given that the nature of affordability checks is to ensure those spending higher amounts have the means to do so, SSG believes it could impact those whose spend increases sporadically at events such as the Cheltenham Festival.

“Next month’s Cheltenham Festival will see hundreds of thousands of racing fans increase their betting budget for one incredible week of sporting action at the home of jumps racing,” Kerr explained.

“However, that increased betting activity will almost certainly result in many of these bettors being subjected to affordability checks, which our polling indicates very few will comply with. 

“As such, it’s likely that the 2023 Cheltenham Festival will prove an unprecedented bonanza for black market operators, but a black week for racing, which is seeing its revenue streams dry up as its customers stop betting.

The Gambling Act review White Paper has been consistently delayed, most recently following the reorganisation of the DCMS and appointment of a new Secretary, but policymakers insist it is due in ‘the coming weeks’.

According to a BBC News report earlier this week, enhanced affordability checks are a likely outcome of the review, and reform advocates have been long-calling for the measures to protect vulnerable consumers.

Kerr concluded: “Under current Gambling Commission guidelines betting operators have no choice but to continue subjecting their customers to these incredibly unpopular affordability checks. 

“It’s critical that the government steps in to provide common sense clarity on what is and isn’t expected by bookmakers before we end up driving yet more customers into the hands of black market operators, doing catastrophic damage to horse racing in the process.”

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