Up to 1,000 rural jobs could be lost as BHA urges MPs to take part in Monday’s Parliamentary debate on affordability checks

22 Feb 2024 BHA Features

Following over 100,000 people signing the e-petition titled ‘Stop the implementation of betting affordability/financial risk checks’, a Westminster Hall debate giving MPs a first chance to properly interrogate the proposals will take place on February 26. 

The petition debate follows new independent economic modelling from Regulus Partners which estimates that if the current proposals are implemented then as many as 1,000 stable staff jobs – or one in seven – could be lost. 

Job losses on this scale would have a devastating impact on British racing given the vital role played by some of the sport’s most-valuable employees in the essential care of the 14,000 thoroughbreds in training at any one time in the industry. 

The potential loss of 600 to 1,000 jobs in British racing is something the sport cannot afford if it is to remain internationally competitive. It would also have a significant impact on the Government’s efforts to level up rural Britain. 

As the petition has demonstrated, there is widespread opposition to affordability checks among the public, who feel that they should be able to participate in a legitimate leisure activity without the potentially disproportionate interventions represented by one-size-fits-all state-mandated affordability limits. 

There has been little opportunity for MPs to scrutinise such significant changes to gambling regulations which, if introduced, could cost the sport of horseracing up to £50m per annum. It is therefore vital that as many MPs as possible attend the debate so that this important issue is subject to the appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. 

While British racing is supportive of Government efforts to reduce problem gambling and make gambling legislation fit for the digital age, it is gravely concerned about the impact on the sport’s finances of proposed ‘financial risk checks’ on remote horserace bettors. 

Additionally, as DCMS Ministers have previously recognised, there is currently considerable frustration concerning the inconsistent approach that racing bettors are experiencing in the interim around affordability checks, with operators conducting ‘hard checks’ including personal documentation.  

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew will take part in the debate where he will be able to update MPs on the consultation process.  

BHA Chief Executive, Julie Harrington, said:The latest data, which highlights the terrible scale of job losses that could result from these checks on betting as currently proposed, showcases yet again the importance of this issue and the need for Government to get it right.

“We look forward to the issue of affordability checks being properly debated by MPs. The BHA has worked tirelessly with stakeholders from across the sport to ensure as many parliamentarians as possible have been contacted in advance of the debate and urged to take part.

“We also thank racing supporters who have sent letters to their MP through the RMG, ATR or Racing Post websites.

“This outreach has further raised awareness around the potential unintended consequences to racing of these measures and we are hopeful that this will translate into a strong turnout for the debate.

“While we want to manage expectations on whether the debate can deliver an immediate change in Government policy, we continue to call for a rethink on the proposals to strike a better balance between protecting vulnerable customers and allowing those who gamble safely and responsibly to do so unimpacted.”

Notes to editors  

1 A link to the e-petition which has inspired the debate, created by Jockey Club Chief Executive Nevin Truesdale, can be found here. 

2 British racing has provided the economic modelling by Regulus Partners to both DCMS and the Gambling Commission in advance of the debate. 

3 Per data provided to the BHA by RMG, almost 4,800 letters have been sent to MPs by racing supporters since the beginning of February. 

4 The results of British racing’s ‘Right to Bet’ survey, which posed very similar questions to those asked by the Gambling Commission within their Summer 2023 consultation, can be found here. The results demonstrated that these measures are overwhelmingly unpopular with racing bettors. 

5 The debate can be followed live on the UK Parliament YouTube channel and is scheduled to start at 4:30pm. The debate is being Chaired by Petitions Committee member Christina Rees MP and can run for as long as three hours. It is taking place in Westminster Hall and not in the main chamber of the House of Commons.