UK Horse Racing Industry Warns MPs of Possible £60m Hit From Discussed Industry Reforms

  • An unknown author is telling UK MPs that affordability checks will hurt horse racing
  • The UK Gambling Commission is considering verification between £100 and £2,000
  • The horse racing industry believes it is less conducive to problem gambling than are casinos
grass track horse race
In a letter written by an unknown author, UK racetracks are telling MPs that possible upcoming customer affordability checks could cost the industry £60m. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Affordability checks would repel bettors

The UK’s horse racing industry is wary of the possibility of customer affordability checks, as is evident by a letter that has been sent to Members of Parliament, asking them to lean on the Gambling Commission to get it to reconsider an industry-wide mandate. It is not known who, exactly, penned the letter, but Britain’s racetracks are sending it to MPs.

David Armstrong, the chief executive of the Racecourse Association, told The Guardian this mass letter-writing tactic is something the organization and its members have done before.

The letter estimates that the country’s horse racing industry will suffer more than £60m ($81.1m) in “direct losses” from affordability checks. Indirect losses in the economy – those people and businesses who are racing adjacent – could mount, as well, possibly resulting in racetrack closures.

would be disproportionate to the small number of people who suffer harm from betting on racing”

“The Gambling Commission’s proposed action would be disproportionate to the small number of people who suffer harm from betting on racing,” the letter reads, “as well as being a very significant invasion on personal liberty in the free society in which we live.”

Threshold somewhere between £100 and £2,000

The possible new affordability check is part of a Gambling Commission consultation which began November 3 and was originally slated to end January 12, but has been pushed to February 9. The Commission believes that sky-high betting thresholds are “unrealistic” and “may not be addressing the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) duties.”

The betting range for required affordability checks that is currently under consideration is between £100 ($135) and £2,000 ($2,705). According to the Commission, 98% of the population has less discretionary income than the upper limit, thus setting it higher than £2,000 would be pointless. The Commission noted the obvious: “it would not be expected that anyone could spend their entire discretionary income on gambling without experiencing harms.”

On the low end, wagers of less than £100 “would be affordable to most of the population” or “extremely unlikely to cause financial hardship.” Therefore, affordability checks below that would “solely pre-emptive” and be akin to a “license to gamble.”

Industry believes affordability checks are unnecessary

The letter’s author believes that British horse racing is already setup so that gambling is not as problematic as it can be in a casino. The key argument here is that the author considers betting on horses to be “skill-based,” as opposed to, say, betting on slot machines or roulette, which are purely luck-based. Horse racing, the author opines, is less likely to lead to problem gambling and therefore such affordability checks are not necessary.

has both stood the test of time and evolved with society.”

The industry’s racing schedule, the letter says, is “designed to provide a fair, safe and compelling betting product that has both stood the test of time and evolved with society.”

The author seems to understand that a simple letter may not move mountains, but implored that even if affordability checks are an inevitability, that any decision is evidence-based and in-step with the government’s review of the Gambling Act. That said, the letter gives no indication of where the £60m figure comes from. The Guardian believes the £100 threshold was used in any sort of calculation.