Yorkshire jobs at risk under proposed betting rules warns horse-racing industry
The first tier would be for those who lose £125 in 30 days or £500 in a year, which is £1.37 a day, to be subject to background checks using “publicly available data”.
The second would result in more detailed scrutiny for bettors with net losses of £1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.
These checks would involve credit-reference agencies in the first instance, with bookmakers also required to ask customers for personal documentation such as bank statements and proof of earnings.
Although the proposals have not yet been formally introduced, more than one in four bettors say they have already been subjected to affordability checks by bookmakers in anticipation of them being implemented, with some operators requesting financial documentation, including payslips and P60 forms.
Racing industry experts say that enforcing the strict measures in the blanket way they are currently proposed would have a “catastrophic” impact on the industry, with more than half of the 14,000 racing bettors who completed a Right to Bet survey saying they would be prepared to walk away from the sport completely or reduce their involvement rather than provide personal financial information.
Independent estimates value the potential lost revenue to the industry at around £250m over the next five years and substantial online betting revenue has already been lost since the checks were first introduced.
That has sparked fears that thousands of livelihoods could be put at risk in Yorkshire alone, with around 3,600 full-time equivalent jobs directly or indirectly dependent on horse racing in the Yorkshire area.
Nearly 84,000 signatures have been added to a petition started by Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of The Jockey Club.
If it gets 100,000 names it will be considered for parliamentary debate and has already surpassed the 10,000 signatures needed to secure a response from the Government.
Ben Warn, chairman of Go Racing In Yorkshire, said: “This is a really important issue for anyone whose job relies on horse racing and in a county like Yorkshire, with major training establishments in Malton, Middleham and Sutton Bank, that’s a significant percentage of the community.
“Whether you’re a breeder, trainer, farrier, vet, jockey, or you work in a racing yard, at a racecourse or in one of the countless other roles which help this sport contribute £3.2m to the Yorkshire economy each year, these Government proposals have the potential to threaten your livelihood.
“Our industry plays a crucial role in the rural community and it is no exaggeration to draw the conclusion that any local business which is thriving as a result of Yorkshire being recognised as the ‘Home of the Thoroughbred’ will be put at significant risk. That’s why we’re encouraging as many people as possible to sign the petition.”
Mr Truesdale said that while the suggested rules infringe personal freedom to gamble and will lead to black market gambling, the horse racing industry remains keen to assist the Government in finding appropriate measures to help those who need support with betting and addiction.
He said: “These proposed affordability checks are a significant infringement on personal freedom and have the potential to impact unfairly on two groups of people – the millions who gamble responsibly every year and the tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend directly and indirectly on horse racing, including a significant number of people in Yorkshire.
“Nowhere else in society do we see this level of intrusiveness from the Government when it comes to people’s legitimate hobbies and we know that the likely result will either be people leaving the sport, or much worse, switching to the unregulated black market.
“The horse racing industry is hugely supportive of changes which directly address problem gambling, especially in the digital age we are in and we welcome the reform of the gambling laws.”
Earlier this year Gambling Minister Stewart Andrew MP said: “The legislation covering the gambling sector was written in 2005. It needs updating to reflect how we live today. The measures we are announcing will protect at-risk players, while allowing the millions who bet regularly to do so unhindered.”
The petition is open for signatures until May 1 next year.