BGC pledges to maintain safer gambling momentum

BGC highlights ‘wake up call’ following latest YouGov betting poll

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has raised concerns regarding a recent YouGov poll of bettors on the subject of affordability checks, describing the results as a ‘wake up call’ for legislators. 

According to the poll, 16% of bettors stated that they would welcome affordability checks, the wider implementation of which is under consideration as part of the 2005 Gambling Act review. 

A much larger number of respondents, 58%, rejected affordability checks, however, whilst a further 59% asserted that government-imposed investigations into customer finances in order to place a bet would lead to ‘a large or substantial risk’ of customers shifting to the black market. 

Lastly, YouGov found that 51% of all surveyed adults believed that this potential increase in black market use would lead to a coinciding rise in problem gambling, with a minority of 4% believing that this trend would reduce problem gambling levels. 

Michael Dugher, BGC CEO, said: “We strongly support the Gambling Review as a once in a generation opportunity to raise standards and promote safer gambling.

“Ministers have said it will be an evidence-led process, and these findings are a wake up call showing the potential dangers of introducing blanket affordability checks on anyone who likes a flutter.”

The standards body has maintained that although it is in favour of enhancing affordability checks, the measures should be targeted against individuals who are most at risk rather than all bettors.

Dugher, meanwhile, also reiterated his view that the government should ‘strike the right balance’ between protection of vulnerable players whilst ensuring that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of not-at-risk bettors are not driven towards illicit operators due to extensive measures such as affordability checks. 

Voicing his opinion last month, Dugher asserted that many voters are becoming concerned about ‘COVID mission creep’ and referring to ‘state interference in personal freedoms’, which he argued could have an impact on the Conservative Party’s voter base in the former ‘Red Wall’ Midlands and Northern England constituencies acquired in the 2019 election. 

The YouGov poll is the second such survey cited by the BGC in recent months, following on from its focus on a RacingTV study which found that 95% would not be happy with bookmaker access to their bank accounts whilst 85% thought consumers would move towards black market operators if stricter measures were introduced.

“We believe that technology should be used to identify those showing signs of problem gambling so that swift interventions can take place,” the BGC Chief continued.

“According to the Gambling Commission, the rate of problem gambling fell from 0.6 per cent to 0.3 per cent in the 12 months to September last year. But one problem gambler is one too many.

“Any changes introduced by the government must be balanced so that they rightly protect the vulnerable while not driving the vast majority who bet safely and responsible towards the unsafe black market online, where there are none of the safer gambling measures which are used by BGC members.”

Although the BGC and the betting operators it represents maintain their concerns on the issue of affordability checks, these fears may have been somewhat quietened by remarks made by Gambling Minister Chris Philp at GambleAware’s 2021 conference. 

Offering some insights into the potential outcomes of the Gambling Act review, Philp made it clear that he agreed with the Gambling Commission’s assessment that requiring customers spending over £100 to provide payslips or bank statements is “unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks”.

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