UKGC Plans For Affordability Check Reviews Could Be Shelved

According to The Telegraph, plans for the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to perform advanced affordability tests as a part of the review of the UK’s betting and gaming laws could be shelved due to the consultation’s results.

The application of affordability tests to all UK gamblers wagering over £100 a month has been introduced to the review as an industry safer gaming and consumer safety measure – and has been seen as one of the review’s most controversial issues by participating stakeholders.

“watered down” or “shelved completely”

The Telegraph announced Thursday morning that the enhanced affordability check criteria would either be “watered down” or “shelved completely.”

The result follows the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) taking full charge of the generational study of the UK’s gambling laws and standards from the UKGC.

In light of MP and media criticism of the UKGC’s handling of the fall of Football Index in March, the DCMS is said to want to concentrate on changing the UKGC’s duties as gambling’s regulator.

Although the news has been described as a ‘boon for gambling,’ betting executives are mindful that the review would make crucial decisions on all aspects of the industry (technical provisions, behaviour, licencing, consumer advocacy, and CSR), with the DCMS proposing a ‘surgical re-wiring’ of the UK gambling laws.

More relaxed approach

Following the March appointment of John Whittingdale to lead the redesign, the DCMS has taken a more relaxed approach to the review, as evidenced by the reported shelving of enhanced affordability reviews.

Whittingdale, the Minister for Media and Data, has a history of voting in favour of the gambling industry in parliament, having opposed legislation in 2014 that would have allowed local councils to control betting shops and fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT).

The UKGC received over 13,000 responses during its extended consultation period on the 2005 Gambling Act, and the regulator has announced that an update will be published ‘in due course.’

Horse racing industry leaders have previously joined betting and gaming operators in criticising the idea of expanded affordability tests, as the sport currently earns about £350 million in the form of broadcast rights agreements, sponsorships, and the betting tax from the gambling industry.

If introduced, the new rules would require a mandatory review after a customer lost £100 in a month. Horse racing officials say that this will cost the industry around £60 million a year in missed payments from betting operators, at a period when the sport has already lost about £250 million due to COVID-19.

The Jockey Club’s Chief Executive, Nevin Truesdale, and the Arena Racing Company’s Chief Executive, Martin Cruddace, estimated a worst-case estimate of £100 million in losses as a result of affordability tests in February.

Concerns of illegal betting market

Politicians and industry leaders have also expressed concern about the existence of an illegal betting black market, claiming that increased affordability checks could drive consumers to unlicensed operators who lack the same safeguards and player security measures as the regulated sector.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was also said to be keeping a close eye on the gambling review and had expressed direct concerns to the DCMS.