Gambling Business Group warns over affordability checks

GBG has warned that the proposed affordability checks could drive players to the unregulated market.
GBG has warned that the proposed affordability checks could drive players to the unregulated market.

The industry organisation has criticised the British regulator’s proposed affordability checks.

UK.- The cross-sector Gambling Business Group (GBG) has criticised the Gambling Commission’s proposed affordability checks, warning that they could prompt more players to turn to unlicensed sites.

The Gambling Commission launched a consultation on affordability checks on gamblers in November, and the UK government is to consider legislation on the matter in its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The GBG has attacked the proposal, saying it would undo the work against illegal gambling achieved by the regulator, operators, safer gambling agencies and charities.

It particularly criticised the suggested creation of a discretionary monthly spending limit which the think-tank the Social Market Foundation has proposed should be set at or £100 a month.

The regulator has rejected claims of the dangers of illegal gambling in the UK as “exaggerated”, but the GBG warns that affordability checks may drive players away from regulated gambling sites to blackmarket operators, which follow none of the industry’s responsibility rules.

It said there was a danger that this would cause the currently low level of problem gambling to rise above 1 per cent.

British horseracing stakeholders have already voiced fears that affordability checks on gamblers could seriously dent the sector’s already suffering finances.

GBG chief executive, Peter Hannibal, said: “I would like to stress from the outset that although the Gambling Commission’s affordability proposal has been framed in relation to online players, it would be naïve in the extreme to assume that the principles and philosophy will not be extended to all gambling entertainment activities across all verticals including adult gaming centres, licensed betting offices and bingo clubs in some shape or form.

“Currently the demand to play on unregulated sites is limited but the unintended and I assume unforeseen consequences of affordability checks will be to create such a market and then to sustain it.

“Make no mistake, this is prohibition by another name and wherever you look in the world prohibition has never worked and will never work, more than often creating exactly the set of problems that it sets out to address.”

Hannibal also said he found it “illogical” for the Gambling Commission to propose new measures while the UK government is in the process of reviewing gambling legislation.

He said: “The affordability proposal raises a huge range of quite fundamental ethical, legal and practical issues – not least a precedent for state intervention in consumer spending alongside a quite startling presumption that gambling entertainment, enjoyed responsibly by 99 per cent of consumers, represents a public health issue way beyond that of tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption or obesity.

“As such it merits much deeper, evidence-based scrutiny.”

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