Racing could pay a heavy price in gambling reform

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Hours after the government’s White Paper on gambling reform was finally published last week, British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington was asked whether the proposed legislation took into account the fundamental difference between betting – on racing and other sports – and gambling, on fixed margin casino products.

Related: Racing welcomes gambling reforms but warns of ‘estimation’ in annual cost

“There’s quite a bit of language, assuming there’s a difference between sport and evidence of faster losses on those casino games,” Harrington said. “I think on a closer reading, you’ll see that maybe it’s not the headlines, but the language underneath really makes a distinction between that and so that’s clearly come through.”

As anyone who’s flown on a budget airline can attest, however, “landing” can feel like a relative concept when there’s still a 30-minute yomp to pass control. And whatever the “language below” suggests, the simple fact remains that the introduction of “affordability” checks for punters – a potentially significant threat to the funding of racing from betting – is not there is no discrimination at all.

A net loss of £125 a month, or £500 a year, will encourage punters to start “frictionless” checks on their finances. Potentially more aggressive checks will be carried out if a customer shows signs of “binge” gambling, which is defined as a net loss of £1,000 in 24 hours, with further consultation for an additional trigger of a net loss of £2,000 in 90 days.

As things currently stand, these thresholds apply regardless of whether a punter gambles entirely on sports, casino products only or a combination of both. And while some of the government’s language in the white paper acknowledges the relative speed of casino gaming losses in the white paper, the nature of those losses does not.

A customer plays on a slot machine in a casino. Online games are extremely profitable for gaming companies and new legislation is currently underway. Photo: Stocksolutions/Alamy

There is a reason that online slot machines and roulette games are addictive by design. The bright colors and graphics, the flashing lights and sounds and above all the lightning speed of play are a subtle wrapping paper around a mechanical mechanical process, at its heart, to separate gambling from their stake. The margin is set, by the same math that holds the universe together. The more you gamble, the more sure you will be a loser, so they want to keep you spinning, semi-hypnotized and several times a minute, for hours on end.

Of course, most racing punters also lose, but the nature and pattern of those losses will often be completely different. Some punters only bet on big meetings such as Cheltenham, others only on football or perhaps a lower profile sport where they feel their knowledge gives them an advantage.

Air: 1.30 Far from Ruby 2. 00 six people 2.35 Hello Lyla 3. 05 Alpine Sierra 3. 40 Our Absent Friends 4.10 Loch Navar 4. 40 Al

Salisbury: 1.40 Biggest things 2. 10 Big R (nap) 2. 45 Michael’s choice 3.15 Shaaden 3. 50 Ectcross 4.20 Later Darling 4.55 Monjules 5.25 Fighting Poet

Red car: 1.50 Our Delia 2. 20 Indiana Be 2.55 Positive Force 3.25 Coverdale (nb) 4. 00 Concorde 4.30 Dapper man 5. 05 Smile And Pay

Lingfield Park: 5.00 Phenomenon 5.35 Hidden Mission 6. 05 Revolutionary Man 6.35 Mellys Flyer 7. 05 That’s it 7.35 Edge of Ember 8.05 Sovereign Spirit

City: Chelmsford: 5.45 Hildegard 6.15 Almodovar Del Rio 6.45 Melakaz 7.15 Floating 7.45 Cavalluccio 8.15 Nivelle Magic 8.45 Wyvern

And even the super shrewdies who are sharp enough to make their bets pay off in the long run are all but guaranteed to hit a losing streak at some point that prompts an affordability check, never mind that they’re probably giving a bit of back at York in August when they did five times more at Cheltenham in March.

The biggest gaming conglomerates have relied on the easy profits from gambling for the past 20 years, and are falling over themselves to cross-promote gaming products to customers who first sign up to bet on sports, as if it’s just another way of being. pound. They even have the cheek to inform punters whose sports betting is limited to pennies that they can gamble on slots and roulette as long as they like.

Racegoers check the form at the Cheltenham Festival.

Racegoers check the form at the Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA

And racing, for the most part, has stood by and let it happen. When £100-a-spin gaming machines in high street betting shops poisoned gambling’s image, industry figures swallowed – and, in some cases, parodied – the lie that thousands of betting shops would close, with disastrous results for Levy racing and media rights. income, if bets were cut to £2 a spin. They were, and they weren’t.

On that basis, an estimated loss of between £8m and £14m to racing as a result of affordability checks could be seen as the price to pay for failing to clamp down on betting and draw attention to the toxic effects of gambling.

But that estimated loss could be an underestimate, and some campaigners are already calling for the thresholds that trigger checks to be tightened. This is unlikely to be a one-way process.

It is also unclear how much affordability checks will affect a punter’s credit rating. If there’s a chance you’ll be turned down for a loan or mortgage because you’ve had a few bad days at Cheltenham, it’ll be a disincentive to open an account in the first place.

Related: This Grand National was a spectacle for many in the racing bubble Greg Wood

The consultation period on the White Paper has already begun before legislation is introduced, and these are all points that the BHA will be looking to raise in the coming weeks.

Ascot 1.30 Passionate Spirit 2.05 Maximum Impact 2.40 Dancing Goddess 3.15 Trueshan 3.50 Trillium (nb) 4.25 My Prospero 5.00 Spoof

Pontefract 1.40 Cradle Up 2.15 Taigar 2.50 Moon Arch 3.25 The Cookstown Cafu 4.00 Ertebat 4.35 Farhhfromdearmad 5.10 Inexplicable 5.45 Hostelry

Wolverhampton 1.50 Fern Tiger 2.25 Cue’s Beau 3.00 Zakram 3.35 Glory And Honor 4.10 Prime Total 4.45 Tiger Turbo 5.15 Brasil Power

Brighton 5.05 Cuba Gray 5.35 Gray Gray 6.10 Big Bard 6.40 Qiunault 7.10 Moveonup 7.40 Seattle King 8.10 Hellavapace

Kempton 6.00 Della 6.30 Lady Dreamer 7.00 Arctic 7.30 Wonder Starelzaam (nap) 8.00 The Spotlight Kid 8.30 Damascus End 9.00 Agapanther

But clear blue water between betting and gambling seems unlikely, at least in the short to medium term. So, on that basis, it may also be useful to push for a small fraction of the new £140m Statutory Gambling Levy, which is a very sensible element of the government’s plans, to be spent on meaningful, conclusive research to consider relative harm. betting and gambling.

Gambling firms have the necessary data – after all, they can identify unprofitable racing punters after three or four bets – and it should be readily available to any independent researcher who wants it. Then, and only then, may we be able to think of ways to clean the toxins of gambling from racing and betting.

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