Seven Racetrack Bookmakers Heavily Fined by UKGC

  • Each bookmaker accepted a £5 ($6.50) bet from a 16-year-old at Royal Ascot last summer
  • Seven guilty parties have been fined 2.5% of their annual gross profit by the UKGC
  • Industry representatives have slammed the “disproportionate” fines
male holding paper with word 'fines' printed
Seven racetrack bookmakers in the UK have been heavily fined for accepting bets from an underage bettor at Royal Ascot last summer. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Caught by enforcement action

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has handed out huge fines to seven racetrack bookmakers for accepting wagers from an underage bettor. 

Each bookmaker accepted a £5 ($6.50) bet from a 16-year-old operating on behalf of the UKGC’s enforcement team at Royal Ascot last summer.

UKGC has demanded what equates to 2.5% of their annual gross profit as punishment

As the legal age to place such a bet in the UK is 18 years old, all seven bookmakers have been punished for failing to carry out age verification checks. The UKGC has demanded what equates to 2.5% of their annual gross profit as punishment.

Following the announcement of these fines, the bookmakers in question were said to be “shell-shocked” at the decision.

Shock at heavy punishment

The bookmakers have been given until the end of the week to appeal the UKGC’s decision. None of them have commented publicly on the matter.

A number of other bookmakers and trade representatives have said that the extent of these fines was “disproportionate” to the offenses. They also noted that the punishment was a lot stricter than what online or retail betting companies would be facing. 

Mick Williams, chairman of the Association of Racecourse Bookmakers, spoke about how this was a “scary” decision. He said: “You’d think there’d be a procedure in place: a warning for the first offense, a fine for the second and then at some stage a possible suspension of your license. But there’s none of that.”

According to Robin Grossmith from the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, one of the bookmakers at fault in this case faces paying a fine of £7,600 ($9,866).

There was no comment from the UKGC as this is an ongoing matter. However, the commission has said on record that it is continuing to crack down on cases of underage gambling. 

17 bookmakers put to the test

The UKGC carried out a similar test at Royal Ascot in 2014. It was designed to put the age verification systems of racetrack bookmakers to the test.

10 of the 17 bookmakers tested asked the underage bettor for identification

On this occassion, none of the 20 bookmakers tested asked the 16-year-old for any proof of identification. At the time, these bookmakers only received a written warning. This time around, 10 of the 17 bookmakers tested asked the underage bettor for identification. 

The basis for the 2.5% of gross gambling profit fine is that this is the sum that a bookmaker will keep after paying out winnings before expenses are deducted.

Grossmith questioned if the UKGC would fine 2.5% of William Hill’s gross gambling yield if it was found guilty of a similar offense. Such a fine would be in the range of tens of millions of pounds.