BGC and UKGC at odds once again over black market threat
The Betting and Gaming Council Chief Executive, Michael Dugher, has called on the Government to “take heed” of betting customers after a survey by Racing TV showed high levels of opposition to the imposition of stringent affordability checks on how much they are allowed to spend betting.
This is not the first time the BGC has called attention to a survey result of this type. As previously reported by us here, back in March this year, it reported the outcome of a YouGov survey under the heading: “Majority of voters oppose giving politicians the power to limit how much people can spend on betting”.
Commenting on the recent Racing TV survey, Martin Stevenson (CEO of Racing TV’s parent company Racecourse Media Group) said yesterday (16 December 2021):
The response to the Racing TV survey has demonstrated how concerned our members are about the restrictions of their personal freedoms in terms of how they choose to spend their leisure time and money. In addition, they don’t see affordability checks and limits on staking, deposits and losses, all of which could be under review by the Government, as the right solution.
While we are in full agreement with the objectives of protecting vulnerable individuals from gambling-related harm, any new legislation needs to be proportionate, targeted and evidence-based.
If some of the restrictions under consideration are left unchallenged, this could not only change the way people are allowed to enjoy betting and horseracing in a profound way, but leave lasting damage in terms of significantly reduced revenues to the sport, which is still coming to terms with the devastating effects of Covid-19.
I’d like to thank all our members who took part in the survey, and we will ensure the results form a valuable part of Racing’s response to the Review.
Arising from the results of that survey, the BGC has stated as follows on its website:
BGC CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO LISTEN TO PUNTERS’ WARNINGS FOLLOWING ‘ALARMING’ SURVEY SHOWING VAST MAJORITY FEAR STRINGENT SPENDING CHECKS LEADING TO RISE IN UNSAFE BLACK MARKET
Racing TV asked 2,000 of their members for their views on so-called “affordability” checks that could involve customers being required to hand over payslips and bank statements to betting companies to assess how much they can spend, which are being considered as part of the Government’s Gambling Review.
Some 95 per cent stated that they would not be happy for bookmakers to have access to their bank accounts to check whether they can afford to bet.
Worryingly, the survey also found that 85 per cent of those asked think that there is a danger of punters using the unsafe, unregulated black market online if restrictions were implemented.
It found that 88 per cent believe that they should have the freedom to choose how much they bet without Government interference.
The BGC has argued for enhanced spending checks to be targeted at those that are vulnerable or at higher risk of problem gambling. According to the survey, 74 per cent thinking that checks should be reserved for those with potential problems controlling their gambling expenditure.
The findings echo the results of a YouGov poll for the BGC which found that 59 per cent of UK adults agree that “if there are too many limits placed on people to bet”, they will shift to the unsafe black market.
They also chime with several other surveys. For instance, 94 per cent of people polled for At The Races stated that they would not be happy for bookmakers to have access to their bank statements.
Meanwhile, three separate surveys by BGC member Flutter found that 88 per cent of respondents were very uncomfortable or uncomfortable about uploading copies of wage slips and/or bank statements to prove affordability.
Responding to the Racing TV survey, Michael Dugher said:
“I’m alarmed at the findings – particular the high number who believe that punters will simply move to the unsafe, unregulated black market online if blanket enhanced spending checks are introduced – and hope that ministers will take heed of punters’ views.
We strongly support the Gambling Review as an evidence-led process, but it’s vitally important that it strikes the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and not spoiling the enjoyment of the vast majority of customers who enjoy a flutter safely and responsibly.
I am not opposed to spending checks, but believe we should use the technology that is now available to target those people who are at vulnerable or at higher risk of problem gambling and providing them with the help they need, rather than blanket checks on every punter.
The Racing TV survey – like the poll we commissioned earlier this year – show that the unsafe, unregulated black market online, which has none of the safer gambling measures used by our members, stands to benefit if the Government fails to get the necessary changes in the Gambling Review right.
Any shift to the unsafe black market would also jeopardise the £350m a year which our members currently give to horseracing in sponsorship, media rights and the betting levy – financial support which has proved crucial during the pandemic.”
The above follows comments made by (a) Gambling Minister Chris Philp and (b) Gambling Commission Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes at the GambleAware conference on 8 December 2021.
At that conference, Chris Philp appeared to draw back from the Gambling Commission’s previous proposal that stringent affordability assessments should be conducted at thresholds set by the regulator, saying:
To be workable and prevent harm, affordability checks need to be proportionate. As the Commission has said, demanding payslips or bank statements from every customer spending £100 or so is likely to be unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks. But there is a level that is appropriate.
and Andrew Rhodes had dispelled the black market threat:
We …. do need to do more around illegal gambling and the black market. I do think this gets overstated and I worry that some use it as an excuse not to take action.
I have sat down with one operator who was facing action from us around serious noncompliance, and they raised the black market with me. And I regard that, if you imagine – this analogy again only goes so far – if you imagine we were a taxi licensing authority, so bear with me… That’s like someone where the licensed taxi with four bald tires and defective seatbelts, standing in front of me, a taxi inspector telling me about an illegal minicab around the corner. You’re quite right about the illegal minicab, but if you want to have the ability to be licensed to advertise, to recruit to the open market, to attract customers who expect regulations and rules in place to protect them, you have to live up to those standards.
We are not going to be deflected away from that mission, in some sort of race to the bottom because someone else is worse. That’s the whole point of having a regulated market. I absolutely believe if you introduce the wrong friction, you can drive people into the black market.
For more on this subject, you can read our following website postings:
- June 2020: The spectre of “offshore, black market, illegal operators” is raised in BGC reaction to Public Accounts Committee report
- December 2020: BGC issues warning of threat from illegal black market gambling operators
- January 2021: BGC and UKGC clash over scale of illegal online black market threat
- February 2021: PwC report stokes fire of debate on scale of the illegal online gambling black market threat
- July 2021: UK’s Gambling Minister provides some clues on what lies ahead