Gambling review an “existential threat" to horse racing

Sun 9 Jan 2022

Watch and read what professional punter Neil Channing had to say on Luck On Sunday about the potential consequences the outcome of the gambling review could have on horse racing.

Professional punter Neil Channing has described the outcome of the Gambling Review as an “existential threat” to horse racing - if stringent affordability checks and betting restrictions are implemented.

Speaking on Luck On Sunday, Channing raised his concerns about the potential threat the outcome could have on the sport’s financial health and personal freedoms, and what impact it would have in the near, and long-term future.

The publication of the White Paper, which sets out proposals emerging from the Review of the Gambling Act, established in 2005, is due to be published in March or April.

Although it is not yet known what might emerge from the Review, it is expected that affordability checks and limits on deposits, stakes and losses, plus restrictions on betting advertising, are likely to be considered.

Watch: Neil Channing discusses the potential impact the gambling review could have on the horse racing industry

“It’s an existential threat to the sport,” Channing reiterated to Nick Luck on Racing TV’s popular weekly breakfast show. “It isn’t a superlative, it isn’t hyperbolic. I really believe it.

“Bringing in affordability checks, where you had to show documentation to your bookmaker to allow you to deposit what you want to deposit, could have come in outside of the act,” Channing said. “The bookmakers have made the argument that people will stop betting on horse racing if they have to send in 12 months of bank statements, P60s and that kind of stuff.

“It could have come in from January 2021, because it was felt the Gambling Commission had the ability to do that. However, because of the sheer amount of people who responded to the conversation, the Gambling Commission went ‘Oh, wow. We thought we would get 300 responses and we got 16,000, so we will kick this into the long grass and then the politicians can tie it into their act.

“It was a win for the horse racing industry to make that happen. We are now fighting for it to not be in the new Gambling Act.

“The people who are lobbying in favour of reform would say there is no real proof of that, and a lack of information. However, anecdotally, and when you talk to people, say, for example, Entain, they have asked all of their VIPs to send in this information and 95% have just walked away and said ‘no, I’m not going to do it’”.

The Racing Post's Bruce Millington raised concerns about affordability checks from bookmakers in a recent edition of Luck On Sunday

Channing explained how, if you want to say or do something to get your views on the Gambling Act review and the impact it could have on the horse racing industry heard, then it is best to lobby your MP.

He said: “We have a Government that has a large majority and there is no appetite in the opposition, for example, to argue against affordability checks so, basically, the only thing you can do is lobby your MP. It doesn’t matter what party your MP belongs to because this is a cross-party issue.

“You can argue to your MP that this is an impingement on your civil liberties. There are often comparisons with smoking or drinking as people say these are sin things and should be treated in that way. However, if I smoke a cigarette, every time I do that it is detrimental to my health. If I drink alcohol, in moderation, it doesn’t too much, but to any great degree, it is bad for my health.

“People are generally healthier if you don’t smoke or drink. You can gamble every day of your life and have no problem whatsoever on your lifestyle and it is pleasurable activity.

“If I want to go online and buy lots of things on Ebay, or have any kind of hobby such as playing golf and spend a fortune on equipment, I can easily do that at a cost to my family, given the amount of time I’m spending on it, and also at a financial cost, given the amount of money I’m spending on it, and yet the government won’t get involved. “Why do they get involved in gambling – it is just a leisure pursuit, like any other.”

Channing also explained how punters could look to place their bets elsewhere, should strict affordability measures be put into place. A Racing TV survey last month revealed that more than 86% of respondents believed that enhanced affordability checks could drive betting underground.

“The black market is an interesting one,” Channing said. “What’s happening now, in modern times, is WhatsApp bookies and it is a massive thing. Some of these will be licensed operators who say ‘come and bet with me, do it through WhatsApp and do a screenshot of something and that you fancy £100 on it, and you can have it.’

“To an extent. that is fine. These companies are licensed, and they are paying a lot more tax than the biggest operators. However, you then get a grey area where there are some people who are customers off the books who message me privately and I don’t do the affordability stuff with them. “Other operators work abroad and divert their VIPs into foreign territories, and then there is straight up illegal gambling. I have been approached by plenty of people who have said that they can get me on. ‘We’ll pay you in the car park or via Bitcoin, it’s not that difficult.' You don’t have to be a huge punter, just a £100 punter, really.

“A key point is that the bookmakers themselves will talk about that, if we bring in affordability checks, it will push people into the black markets. However, they don’t talk about restricting people who want to bet £100 at 10am in the morning on the big race of the day and they can only have £8.43 on.

“They never talk about how this could push people into the black market. Lots of people I speak to have been pushed into the black market because they can’t get on, so the betting industry cannot have it both ways.” Stricter gambling measures have been implemented by bookmakers in recent years, with companies attempting to raise awareness of problem gambling. also offer free, confidential help and support to anyone who is worried about their – or someone else’s – gambling issues.

“I think betting companies have done a good job in trying to head this off in the last few years,” Channing said.

“The amount of problem gamblers is less than 0.5%; that is the stats we have seen over the last 20 years, so it is a small cohort. 99% are just those who want to have a punt, and no one is speaking up for them. “The Racing TV members who filled in the survey would say they are interested in gambling on horse racing and not interested in slots. They see it as a hobby, a cerebral activity, and they see it as a puzzle. It is much harder to get addicted to something where you are having three or four bets a day, compared to spinning a roulette wheel every 30 seconds.”

'It's a bit of an invasion of privacy in my eyes' - Frankie Foster caught up with a racecourse punter at Cheltenham last year to discuss affordability checks

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