Home NewsTechnology The road to ICE-2024: affordability checks loom large amid criticism

The road to ICE-2024: affordability checks loom large amid criticism

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This white paper on the Gambling Act was an important milestone for UK’s gambling industry. This white paper explained how the UK should regulate gambling in future. The white paper included key terms such as consultations regarding stake limits, mandatory statutory levies for operators, and an introduction of an Ombudsman.

The affordability check has remained a hotly debated issue. Although many industry professionals agree with the proposals in the whitepaper, the affordability check was met with strong opposition by operators and trade associations.


Affordability checks

The white paper made many proposals with the intent of protecting groups that are vulnerable. In November, a Gambling Commission study revealed that 1 in 4 Britons are problem gamblers.

Lucy Frazer, secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, stated that DCMS will “force” operators, to increase their affordability check.

Financial risk checks will apply to players who have a net loss of more than PS125 per month, or PS500 over a period of 90 days. Players who lose more than PS125 per month or PS500 annually will be subject to “passive” financial risk checks.

The research by the sports betting group OLBG found that over 65% British punters betting up to PS1,000 a month wouldn’t be willing to submit documents to verify their affordability.


Industry response

Industry response has been strong to the affordability check, as there is a widespread belief that checks on finances will be detrimental for businesses.

Andrew Rhodes said that affordability checks accounted for many responses in the consultations on the whitepaper.

Rhodes responded to those who claimed that affordability checks could drive gambling to the underground market by saying these fears are “overstated”.

The industry continued to press for more. The Gamblers Consumer Forum contacted UK statistics regulator in order to express concerns about figures provided by the Commission, namely the number of players who will be affected by affordability tests.

In an open letter, the Commission wrote to Racing Post’s readers in order to “clear any misunderstandings” regarding financial risk checks. The Commission accused Racing Post of “unbalanced” stories.

Rhodes delivered another speech to the International Association of Gambling Regulators in which he attacked critics for what he described as “deliberately misinformation”.

GamCare has come out to support the increased affordability checks. However, the charity expressed concerns about the threshold amount.


Jockey Club’s CEO files petition to ban checks

Early November was a pivotal time in the fight to end affordability checks. Nevin Truesdale, the chief executive of Jockey Club, launched an online petition to rally opposition against affordability checks.

According to the Jockey Club, affordability checks may cost the racing sector PS250m in the next five year. Bettors could be asked to show that they are able to afford the hobby they enjoy if they have a daily loss of PS1.37.

The petition reached 100,000 signatures by the end of the month. It was sufficient to guarantee that the affordability check would be discussed in parliament. The issue will be debated in parliament in February after it was raised in Westminster Hall during January.

The fact that the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) chief executive Julie Harrington reached 100,000 signatures in only 27 days shows the strong feeling of bettors about the checks.


Checks are associated with a black market risk

Financial risk checks may not protect the most vulnerable, but they could drive them to unregulated gambling.

Rhodes dismissed that argument again at the biggest-ever gathering of leaders in November. The risk that “intrusive affordability checks” could drive some people to engage in illegal gambling is “overblown”, he said.

He added, “That doesn’t mean that there are no risks. I have repeated this many times.” It does not mean that there are no issues. “I hear a number of good examples, but I think we should turn them into actionable items.”

David Brown, a 50-year veteran of the UK gambling industry disagreed with Rhodes’ belief that affordability checks would not increase illegal gambling.

Brown told iGB that the current scenario, which involves potentially intrusive affordability tests, is likely to encourage criminal operators in Britain. There is no place for complacency in this situation.

It would be wise to recognize the danger of illegal activities and to work together as an industry in order to detect it, and to prosecute them under the law.

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