Racing TV survey uncovers significant black market threat

By | February 13, 2023
Reading Time: 3 minutes


A recent Racing TV survey has drawn a strong response among its members, with more than 3,500 having their say on the Gambling Act Review and the spectre of the black market.

Racing TV is fully supportive of the objectives of the Gambling Act Review in protecting those at risk of gambling harm. In what is the first consumer survey to assess the scale of the black market and affordability checks, the key findings were:

  • 80% of the 3,469 respondents said they would not like to see mandatory limits imposed by bookmakers
  • 15% of 3,539 respondents said they bet, or know someone that bets, with an unregulated online bookmaker
  • 22% of 3,575 respondents said they have been asked to supply personal information
  • 50% (404 respondents) of those asked to supply this information, refused to do so
  • 92% of 3,237 respondents said they would consider using a different bookmaker if no personal information was required

Affordability checks and loss limits have been key focal areas of the ongoing Gambling Act Review and will draw most attention when the White Paper is published.

Reports in the media last year indicated that a leaked draft of the White Paper contained fixed loss limit thresholds. These are highly contentious for our survey respondents. Nearly 80% of the 3,469 respondents said they would not like to see mandatory limits imposed by bookmakers.

Perhaps the most worrying of these findings was that 15% of the 3539 respondents to the below question said that they bet, or they know someone that bets, with an unregulated online bookmaker.

In the absence of clear direction from the Gambling Commission, and while the wait for the publication of the White Paper goes on, many bookmakers have introduced affordability checks, some of which, such as requests for payslips, bank statements or P60s, could be considered intrusive.

More than 22% of the 3,575 respondents to the below question suggested that they have been asked to supply such documents.

Just over half of those who had been asked to supply such documents declined to do so.

In addition, more than 92% of 3,237 respondents to the below question suggested they would consider using a bookmaker, which didn’t require documentation.

Martin Stevenson, CEO of Racing TV’s parent company Racecourse Media Group, said: “The widespread response to the Racing TV survey shows how much the ongoing Gambling Act Review, combined with their recent experiences, is affecting our members.

“Our survey revealed that 15% of respondents bet, or know someone that bets, with an unregulated bookmaker, which is of real concern. With millions of customers betting on racing, the findings of this survey indicate that hundreds of thousands of punters are potentially using the black market.

“This survey is clear evidence that shows that the black market is real and substantial and suggests that affordability checks are having the effect of moving a significant number of affected punters out of the UK-regulated environment and so exposing them to potential harm. This must be a pyrrhic victory and the opposite to what affordability checks set out to achieve.

“We have shared this information with the Gambling Commission and hope that they can take account of this in their assessment of the black market. The evidence suggests it exists and is only building.”

Stevenson went on: “Nearly a quarter (22%) responded yes to the question on whether they had been asked for personal information, with 50% refusing to comply. This is a strikingly high percentage, demonstrating consumers’ rejection of this intrusion on their leisure activity.

“The inference that 22% of racing punters are at risk of harm is very challenging to believe and appears excessive when compared against the overall prevalence of problem gambling.

“In addition, RMG has seen a material decline in online betting turnover on horseracing in 2022. The Racing Post has estimated the sport could lose up to £40m of funding each year. Everyone involved in the industry should be deeply concerned. The impact of affordability checks is that the sport is suffering a heavy financial toll.”

The former Minister with responsibility for Horseracing and Gambling, Paul Scully, recently indicated how the Government were approaching affordability checks, saying: “It is not the role of the government, it is not the role of the Gambling Commission, to tell people how much of their salary they are ‘allowed to’ spend on gambling.”

Stevenson continued: “I hope that the new Minister with responsibility for Horseracing and Gambling will also consider the results of this survey as part of the ongoing work on the Gambling Act Review. It has been long overdue, in this process, to consider the attitudes of the consumers themselves in regard to how they choose to spend their time and money. I was very glad to hear the former Minister acknowledge that in his recent speech.

“Applying universal limits does not recognise the wide range of natural betting behaviours, events, seasonality or differing individual financial circumstances. The undoubted highlight of the Jumps season, the upcoming Cheltenham Festival – which is the major focus for many punters – is clearly a case in point. To that end, I was pleased to see the former Minister stating that a ‘one size fits all approach’ was not the intention.

“I’d like to thank all our members who took part in the survey.”

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