UK Gambling Commission Cancels ‘Disproportionate’ Sportsbook Fines

  • Seven on-course racing sportsbooks were fined for accepting wagers from an underage person
  • The UKGC cleared their penalties in view of the struggles they are facing over pandemic 
  • The sports betting operators have instead been issued a warning about their conduct
  • Test purchasing at the 2019 Royal Ascot saw a 16-year-old place £5 bets with seven sportsbooks
  • Some maintain that the initial fines of 2.5% of annual gross gambling yield were excessive
elegantly dressed crowd at Royal Ascot annual horse racing event
The UKGC has cleared fines issued to seven on-course racing sportsbook operators for accepting underage bets at the Royal Ascot meet in 2019. [Image:]

Penalties put to bed

Seven on-course racing sportsbooks have had their “disproportionate” fines wiped by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC). The penalties had been issued in relation to underage test purchasing that took place at the Royal Ascot racecourse in 2019. 

operators have received warnings instead of fines

The reasoning behind the UKGC’s decision was that sports betting operators are currently facing challenging times due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. British horse racing has been put on hold for some time, meaning that these sportsbooks have no revenues coming in. As a result, the said operators have received warnings instead of fines.

A spokesperson for the UKGC said the protection of underage people from gambling is a high priority. They added: “We will continue to monitor their standards very closely. If future failings are identified we will not hesitate to take action.”

The offenses in question

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and Trading Standards conducted test purchasing at the Royal Ascot race meeting in June 2019. This saw a 16-year-old successfully placing £5 ($6.11) bets with seven of the 17 sportsbooks that were targeted. 

16-year-old successfully placing £5 ($6.11) bets with seven of the 17 sportsbooks

The UKGC handed out fines of 2.5% of the operators’ annual gross gambling yield. This essentially is the profit that an operator makes after paying bettors their winnings. The figure is not inclusive of other costs. One of the operators was set to pay a fine of over £7,000 ($8,560) for the transgression of accepting wagers from an underage bettor. 

With the British Horseracing Association releasing a provisional racing schedule, on-course sportsbooks will be looking to get back in business shortly. Race meetings should be able to restart from June 1 onwards after the UK government published a timeline for the resumption of sporting events on Monday.

Positive response to UKGC move

The Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers director, Robin Grossmith, was pleased with the UKGC’s decision to review sanctions after the operators in question submitted mitigation pleas. Grossmith speculated that the initial fines were too hefty and that the new solution is much more realistic. 

British Racecourse Bookmakers Association president Chris Hudson also praised the move. He expressed commitment to obtaining further clarity from the authorities as to how to best tackle underage gambling issues. 

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