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Regulus FOI shows public opposition to affordability check

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According to the Racing Post, a Freedom of Information (FoI request) forced the Gambling Commission into publishing data that showed clear public opposition towards affordability checks.

In February 2021, the short survey about affordability checks had received approximately 12,000 answers. The GC published a summary of results in its May response.

A Freedom of Information request from Regulus Partners and shared with The Racing Post has led to the disclosure of further information that shows a clear opposition to risk-based financial checks.

Data shows that only 14% of respondents would divulge information to a gambling firm when asked. Some 41.8% of punters would not share this information due to discomfort, and 22.5% might stop gambling with the company until it also requests that they do.

The GC did not respond to Racing Post’s question about why results weren’t released then.

Public’s concerns about privacy

According to The Racing Post, 82% of the 12,000 survey respondents said that they gambled at least twice a week. Nearly 92% of respondents had placed bets online during the previous four weeks.

The majority of the respondents agreed that operators should intervene when they see a customer in danger. 75% said it was important to take action to assist such a client.

The survey revealed that people don’t believe gambling operators should decide whether a person can afford to gamble. In total, 77.6% said that businesses should not be required to determine whether or not customers can afford gambling.

64.4% of respondents cited the freedoms that individuals enjoy, and 61.4% raised privacy concerns.

Nearly two thirds (66%) of respondents said they felt either uncomfortable or very comforted if companies accessed their information to check affordability. Only 8.6% said they felt very comfortable with sharing this information.

54% of respondents said that they wouldn’t share this level of information with anyone.

Did the GC hide data?

A consultation was held alongside the initial survey to assess affordability, as part of the GC’s efforts to safeguard vulnerable gamblers from harm.

The GC originally declared that it would release the results along with its responses to the 2023 consultation, but the details were not shared. The results of the review were incorporated into the white paper and Gambling Act Review by the Government.

The Racing Post reported that Regulus’s request to obtain the results under the Freedom of Information Act was denied because there wasn’t “ample public interest”.

In the past, the GC was criticized for its perceived mishandling of statistics. David Brown, a veteran of the industry, criticised misrepresentation by the Commission of its statistics regarding affordability checks in iGB’s 2023 interview. This was part of a continuing back and forth about how different sides are using data for scoring points during the debate on gambling reform.

The industry continues to be concerned about affordability

In April 2023, the white paper was released. It marked a turning point in how gambling in Britain is regulated.

While some measures, such as a mandatory statutory levies and stake limits have received a positive response from the public, affordability is still a major issue.

Andrew Rhodes, chief executive of GC, said that the white paper consultations were dominated by responses about affordability and the horseracing sector was particularly opposed to the proposals.

In November, Jockey Club Chief Executive Nevin Truesdale started a petition to stop financial risk assessments. In less than one month, the petition had attracted 100,000 signatures. This led to a debate in parliament on this issue.

Plans continue to progress – in August, a pilot “frictionless affordability check” will be launched for six months and conclude in February 2025. Tim Miller, GC’s executive director said that frictionless checks will use data from open sources rather than credit reference agencies.

A pilot project will also be conducted to test the “light touch” checks of financial risks. The first round of the pilot will begin on 30th August, when net deposits reach PS500 ($639) or EUR590 (EUR599). The second phase of the competition will start in February 2025 when PS150 net deposit triggers the first round.

Andrew Rhodes, CEO of GC at the time said: “We need to find the right balance between protecting people against the life-threatening effects of gambling and respecting their freedom to participate in an activity where the majority of them do it without harm.”

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