[20th Jan Update: The Gambling Commission have simplified their online consultation – a very welcome decision! You can fill in your response before the 9th February via this link.]
I have a very important post to share with you today about new ‘affordability’ checks being proposed for UK based bettors, what you need to know about it and action you can take right now on this topic.
The UK Government recently announced a gambling review which poses the greatest existential threat to the serious UK based recreational punter in decades, and we have only weeks to fight for our rights to have a decent bet upon its conclusion.
Now this may sound extreme, but we are in battle with politicians and campaigners who have little knowledge of the betting and gaming industry and are adopting a hard-line stance towards it.
Following on from the FOBT debate and subsequent stake reductions, there was an inevitability that an industry review would happen, after all whilst you are restricted to £2 a spin in a betting shop, you can sit in that very betting shop gambling thousands in online casinos via your mobile phone.
The main proposal surrounds affordability checks, which have been put forward by the UK Gambling Commission as part of their ongoing consultation on how to address the issue of gambling disorder.
Options range from limiting bettors to a monthly loss no greater than £2000 down to just £100 and several other requirements that could impact all UK based bettors in the future. Including but not limited to the need to pass on your bank statements and wage slips just to ensure you can get a reasonable bet on.
These affordability limits are being considered because bookmakers have failed abysmally to properly address the numbers of people who bet outside of their means and are considered to have a problem with their gambling.
Mixing Casino-Style Betting With ‘Skill Based’ Betting
This issue is also down to bookmakers knowingly blurring the lines between betting on skill-based events such as racing and casino-style gambling, which are the biggest driver of gambling disorder and source of bookmaker profits. There is evidence that shows that problem gambling rates are higher if betting on online slots and casino games than, for example, horse betting.
Therefore a clear differentiation needs to be made between these two forms of gambling and the Gambling Commission needs to be made aware of it.
Ensuring that it can introduce targeted action to really treat those types of betting which have the greatest issues with gambling disorder rather than a blanket limit that impacts the vast majority of us who bet and do so sensibly.
A blanket set of affordability checks on all types of betting and all punters will only serve to create more issues including likely driving a section of the betting population who wish to bet more to go offshore or into unregulated markets. It also serves as an opportune time to raise the issues of restrictions and closures of shrewd gamblers and how this contrasts with bookmakers claims to take problem gambling seriously. How can then when it is only long-term perennial losers who are allowed to consistently bet without stake restriction or account closure?
Hence my post today as it’s vitally important that those of you based in the UK make these points to both the Gambling Commission as part of their consultation and also to your MP.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION
There are three things you can do today to help raise awareness of the above points over the next few weeks:
- Submit evidence to the Gambling Commission as part of their consultation (ends 9th Feb)
This can be done at any time via the following link: https://consult.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/author/seeking-views-on-how-gambling-companies-interact-w/consultation/intro/ as evidence from all parties (consumers and operators) is invited between now and the 9th February.
The more of you that do so and reiterate the key points I outline above (separation of casino style gambling and skill based gambling) the better.
- Write to your MP
I have also been working with a UK parliamentary contact who has a keen interest in betting to draw up a template letter/email to send to your MP. Here is what to do:
- Locate your MP here: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
- You will need to input your postcode and it will find your MP and their contact e-mail address.
- Once located, insert their name at the top and your name and address at the bottom and send the below.
Dear (insert MP name)
I am writing to express my deep concern about the current review into the Gambling Act and the suggestion by some campaigners that restrictive affordability limits are introduced to betting accounts held by recreational sports bettors.
The reason for my concern is what I would define as skilled betting on sports should not be treated in the same way as unskilled gambling on online casinos, slots or bingo. I spend many hours studying sports markets and would equate what I do to someone investing in the stock market. You do not have to face invasive affordability checks with this investing and I believe the prospect of having to send bookmakers bank statements and wage slips is a huge breach of privacy, a significant data risk and a gross infringement of liberty.
As well as this, I would argue that this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut solution, as evidence shows online slots and casino games have comparatively higher rates of problem gambling than, for example, horse betting. Introducing affordability checks for sports betting will simply drive punters to unregulated markets and hit the treasury revenues at a time the Country can least afford it.
I am therefore asking you to represent my views and contact Nigel Huddleston MP calling upon him to decouple sports and events betting from that in online casinos and reject intrusive affordability checks as part of this review.
(insert name and address)
3. Sign Our Petition
You can also sign our petition backing up the above points and which will be referenced as part of the Smart Betting Club’s submission to the Gambling Commission.
The more of you that sign it and believe in the statement we are making, the more weight these points will carry and greater likelihood they will be listened to.
THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW
If we don’t individually and collectively do our best to take action in the next few weeks, then we can likely have no complaints if in the future we are confronted by short-sighted blanket affordability checks that might impact everyone betting from the UK.
So the more of you that can either take the consultation or write to your MP (An email will take only a few minutes to send) the better and the greater chance our voices will be heard.
There is no doubt that bookmakers have failed to properly tackle the issue of problem gambling, but any new measures introduced need to be done so in a very targeted and specific manner to avoid ruining betting for the many of us who bet sensibly and within our means.
Smart Betting Club Editor