UK Gambling Commission “Out of Touch,” Again Under Fire from Political Figures

Posted on: August 9, 2023, 08:29h. 

Last updated on: August 9, 2023, 10:46h.

The affordability checks the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) wants to impose are going to have “crippling and absolutely devastating” consequences. This is the position of Member of Parliament Philip Davies, who has sent a warning to the horse racing industry about “the most out-of-touch” regulatory entity the UK currently has. He’s not the only one in the government to feel that way, either.

The UK flag flies in front of Big Ben
The UK flag flies in front of Big Ben. Concerns over proposed changes to the gambling industry continue to fester. (Image: Reuters)

At the end of April 2023, the UK’s gambling white paper was finally released following several delays. Embedded within it are actions proposed by lawmakers that would introduce two tiers of affordability checks that operators would have to complete on users.

These verifications are intended to ascertain that customers have the financial means to afford their gambling expenses. However, Davies and North West Leicestershire District Councilor Andrew Woodman expect the checks to lead to greater friction, and potentially more offshore gaming.

Affordability Checks Under Fire

In the first tier, once individuals have reached a spending threshold of £125 (US$159), they will be prompted to scrutinize the financial information pertaining to local individuals involved. On the other hand, a more intense and intimate level of financial control will be activated when individuals surpass the £1,000 (US$1,272) threshold within a 24-hour period, or £2,000 (US$2,544) in a 90-day period.

The UKGC introduced a comprehensive strategy in July for enforcing these access controls before opening a consultation period. Within this plan, it’s specified that a thorough financial evaluation must be conducted every six months to confirm any alterations in the players’ monetary circumstances.

Davies, who has repeatedly questioned the regulator’s capabilities, also slammed government officials over the controls. He believes the checks will make betting too complicated and potentially prevent thousands of bettors from enjoying the activity through regulated channels.

He believes the proposal to calculate net losses on a seven-day rolling period is particularly worrisome. It lacks common sense, as it would cause some bettors to repeatedly face checks, depending on the sports schedule.

Affordability checks are reportedly necessary, according to some government officials and the UKGC, to counter problem gambling. To date, no one has explained why so many resources need to be allocated to something that, as the UKGC has acknowledged, only affects 0.2% of the market.

Until October 18, the UKGC is accepting feedback on the proposals. Now would be a good time to have the question answered.

Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs at Risk

Woodman points out in an op-ed piece published Tuesday that the checks go against the needs of the government. Instead of finding ways to increase tax revenue, which the UK desperately needs, the government is willing to push bettors to offshore platforms that don’t contribute to the economy.

The consultation follows the Gambling White Paper, which heard much from the betting industry and the anti-gambling lobby, but precious little from the millions of ordinary gamblers who just want to have a reasonable bet without having to hand over their financial history, with scant safeguards over their personal data, to a faceless corporate institution,” stated Councillor Woodman.

He’s confident the reforms will not only impact tax contributions, but jobs as well. As more bettors turn to offshore options, some of the 88K people employed by the horse racing industry will be let go in order to compensate for the revenue losses.

By his estimation, Woodman believes “hundreds of thousands” of bettors could move to unregulated sites. This not only means a reduction in tax revenue, but a reduction in responsible gambling oversight.

The cofounder of the Gamblers Consumer Forum also points out something that apparently no one in the UKGC, and some in government, knows. There’s no proof that affordability checks will reduce gambling addiction, as there’s no research that links the two.

Woodman asserts that the government has a “fundamental lack of understanding” regarding addiction and what causes it. If it understood the topic better, it would know that addiction is “not motivated by money.” It would also know that, according to multiple studies, an addict who loses one vice often looks for another to replace it.