uk gambling commission (UKGC)

UKGC reveals punters dismayed by affordability checks under FOI request

A public survey on affordability checks has been forced out of the hands of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Launched back in 2021, the entirety of the survey has finally seen the light of day thanks to advisory business Regulus Group and partner Dan Waugh who submitted the request for a second time after being shunned by the UKGC last year. 

As reported by the Racing Post, the first attempt to get the UKGC to disclose the information in 2023 resulted in failure, with the UKGC saying there’s “no outstanding public interest”. 

However, with the numbers now in the public domain, the decision to turn down the initial request may be interpreted by some observers to be intentional reluctance, as the results reveal an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the affordability checks – now referred to as ‘financial risk checks’ – whose pilot will commence this August as part of the Gambling Act 2005 review White Paper published in April 2023. 

Out of the total 12,000 respondents, 42% replied that they would refuse additional requests by an operator for information on affordability, and 22.5% would stop gambling with that operator. This is compared to the 14% who would otherwise comply with the extra assessments.

On the question of how comfortable punters are in general when gambling firms request such information, 18% of the respondents said they were uncomfortable, while 48% felt very uncomfortable. 

For the Racing Post, Waugh commented: “It [the Commission] was clearly reluctant to share this information at all and then you look at the results and ask why could that be?

“It raises doubts, which have been expressed before, about the extent to which the Gambling Commission is in earnest when it runs these consultations because it has an uncanny knack of doing precisely what it sets out to do regardless of what people submit in evidence.”

In fact, concerns about the feasibility of affordability checks were raised by the Racing Post in September last year, when the publication – together with the British Horseracing Authority, Racing TV and Sky Sports Racing’s digital partner, At The Races – launched a survey of its own to assess the public’s views on the matter.

Back then, Tom Kerr, Editor of the Racing Post, said: “We’ve had thousands of emails, letters and messages from readers expressing dismay and anger about the Gambling Commission’s proposals for affordability checks and expressing huge concern over what they will mean for their pastime and for racing.

“It is vital that the voice of punters is heard in this consultation, and this survey is an important part of ensuring that happens.”

At that point, the UKGC and the Racing Post had already been involved in a back-and-forth, with the exchange reaching a boiling point when UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes sent an open letter on behalf of the Commission to the media outlet, criticising it for a “blatant lack of balance” in its reporting.

With the entire UKGC 2021 affordability checks consultation now in full view, it will be interesting to see whether the regulator will implement any changes to its approach. 

A UKGC spokesperson reassured Racing Post readers that all provided views and responses from the public and relevant stakeholders were “carefully considered” for the development of the new financial risk assessment approach. 

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