UK Jockey Club Criticized Over ‘Short-Sighted’ Playtech Online Gaming Deal

Posted on: February 4, 2022, 11:58h. 

Last updated on: February 4, 2022, 02:03h.

The UK Jockey Club’s decision to partner with online casino software giant Playtech has been slammed by some in the racing industry as “short-sighted,” The Racing Post reports.

Jockey Club
Runners line up for the Grand National at Aintree, above. Aintree is one of many historic racetracks owned by the Jockey Club. (Image: Sky Sports)

Under the terms of the agreement, Playtech will produce a range of content modeled after races and racecourses owned by the venerable 270-year-old institution. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, spans casino, live casino, poker, virtual sports, and bingo.

Formerly the horse racing regulator in Great Britain, the Jockey Club is now the industry’s biggest commercial organization. It owns 15 of the UK’s historic racetracks, including Aintree, Cheltenham, and Epsom Downs.

Horse Betting Difference

But critics say the Playtech partnership undermines the argument that betting on horses should be treated differently from other forms of gambling, like casino gaming, in upcoming government reforms.

The industry is eager to emphasize the “skill-based” element of betting horses in the hope that such wagers will be exempt from tightened regulatory controls. It has highlighted higher problem gambling rates among online casino customers than horse bettors.

The government has pledged to reform the liberalizing 2005 UK Gambling Act, which spawned one of the most permissive regulated online gambling markets in the world.

One proposal is to introduce “affordability checks” for customers who lose more than £100 ($132) over a period of several weeks. This would involve customers having to provide operators with information about their income and monthly outgoings to continue to play.

The racing industry has said this could cost the already cash-strapped sport £60 million (US$79 million) a year in revenue from betting companies. That’s because recreational gamblers would be dissuaded from betting by the intrusive checks.

‘Poor Timing’

The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) is a body created with the assistance of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to represent the interests of those who bet on British horse racing. In a statement this week, it implied the Jockey Club was sleeping with the enemy.

With the Gambling Act review white paper still to be published, this announcement seems poorly timed,” said HBF. “High street bookmakers have re-invented themselves as online casinos, and have knowingly conflated horseracing betting and games of chance.

In response to criticism, the Jockey Club explained the Playtech deal is about reaching new audiences and creating new revenue streams for the sport. It is not about how gambling is regulated, it said.