Martin Stevenson, CEO of the Racecourse Media Group (RMG), has called on horse racing stakeholders to maintain lobbying efforts over the 2005 Gambling Act review, as reported by the Racing Post.
In particular, Stevenson has noted that the potential consequences of the overhaul of the UK’s gambling legislation could extend beyond the betting industry to impact horse racing – the sport receives significant funding each year to the tune of £350 million via the betting levy.
Affordability checks have been repeatedly touted by horse racing leaders as having potentially ‘devastating’ consequences on the sport, especially following the financial constraints of the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns.
Further concerns have been raised on possible restrictions of televised advertising, which racing stakeholders fear could reduce televised coverage of the sport at a time when it is attempting to maximise its audience, as well as the impact of affordability checks on punters’ personal privacy and their subsequent attitude towards the regulated betting market.
“We think it is enormously important that the millions of people who enjoy the sport have the opportunity to explain their concerns to MPs and government,” Stevenson explained.
“People enjoy betting on racing and sports, and it is vital that government hears from fans on that, so that we avoid a potential catastrophe for the sport if new legislation is not proportionate and targeted.”
So far, RMG has been cooperating with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) in encouraging its shareholders to contact their local MPs using an online portal in order to express any concerns they may have over the Gambling Act review. According to RMG over 5,000 emails have now been sent to parliamentarians.
Commenting on RMG’s engagement portal, Stevenson said: “This enabled them to seek assurances that any future gambling regulation would not impinge on their civil liberties and freedom to choose how they spend time and money enjoying horseracing, and nor would it result in any unintended economic consequences to British horseracing.”
The White Paper on the Gambling Act review is expected in the spring, and although the outcomes are not clear yet, an overhaul of the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) regulatory scope is expected as well as a ban on shirt sponsorship arrangements between top-flight football clubs and betting firms.
However, the racing industry has received assurances from Chris Philp – the DCMS Minister overseeing the review – that the government is working to ensure that any legislative changes do not ‘undermine the financial condition’ of British racing.
Many sitting Conservative MPs also represent constituencies in which horse racing is a key local industry and popular sport, with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak – whose Richmond constituency in North Yorkshire includes Catterick Racecourse – previously expressing concerns about affordability checks.
In addition to reassuring horse racing, however, Chris Philp has also calmed some gambling industry nerves with regards to affordability checks, stating towards the end of last year that £100 spending checks would be “unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks”.
It was the prospect of these checks, which would require customers to provide bank statements or payslips as proof of income after spending £100 in one month, which were previously described as posting a ‘devastating’ impact to horse racing’s finances.