Now gamblers face a means test if they run up huge losses: ‘Affordability checks’ could be rolled out for vulnerable punters betting online
- Government sources confirmed the proposed checks in long-awaited shake-up of gambling industry rules
- Sources also insisted vast majority of punters would not be affected by new rules
- Checks would not apply to betting in bookmakers’ high street shops or at racecourses
- But last night gambling industry chiefs raised alarm over ‘intrusive Big Brother checks’
Problem gamblers who run up losses will be asked to prove they can afford to continue betting under tough new rules being considered.
Government sources confirmed last night that ‘affordability checks’ for vulnerable punters betting online are likely to be proposed in a long-awaited shake-up of gambling industry rules.
They dismissed ‘scaremongering’ that this would involve ‘having to provide a wage slip to put a tenner on a horse at Cheltenham’. The sources also insisted the ‘vast majority’ of punters would not be affected by the new rules – only those whose online losses ‘get into thousands’.
The checks would not apply to betting in bookmakers’ high street shops or at racecourses. But last night, gambling industry chiefs raised the alarm over ‘intrusive Big Brother checks’ that would drive punters into the ‘unsafe, unregulated black market online’.
Government sources confirmed last night that ‘affordability checks’ for vulnerable punters betting online are likely to be proposed in a long-awaited shake-up of gambling industry rules
There were also concerns that the vast majority of betting customers would refuse to share personal financial documentation with bookmakers.
A long-delayed gambling white paper is now set to be unveiled in the next few weeks by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
DCMS Ministers are widely expected to propose a new statutory levy on the industry to fund help for problem gamblers. However, there are claims that with the betting industry paying £4.5 billion a year in tax, the Treasury is resistant to the proposals.
Clubs ‘to be hit by bet logos ban’
Betting firms would be banned from sponsoring Premier League football club shirts under proposals that are now ‘under active consideration’.
Government sources confirmed that the ban was being seriously considered as part of the gambling White Paper due out within the next few weeks.
Nine of the 20 Premier League clubs this season have betting companies as their front-of-shirt sponsor, as well as another six teams in the Championship.
The sponsorship deals are said to be worth a combined £100 million a year.
Last year, a study found that all but one of the Premier League clubs partnered with betting firms in some way, as did 15 Championship sides.
A review of the 2005 Gambling Act was launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in December 2020.
The White Paper, originally due out last year, may also call for a ban on betting firm logos on Premier League club shirts.
But the most far-reaching proposal is understood to be a new system of industry-wide checks on whether problem gamblers can afford the losses they run up online, as well as where the money was coming from if they continued to fund such losses.
At Westminster last week, gambling harms campaigner and Labour MP Carolyn Harris proposed that anyone losing £100 or more a month online should be subject to an affordability check.
She said that would not affect the ‘vast majority of gamblers’ as any losses were well under the £100 figure. However, in a speech last December, Gambling Minister Chris Philp poured cold water on that figure, saying: ‘Demanding payslips or bank statements from every customer spending £100 or so is likely to be unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks.’
The Mail on Sunday understands the affordability checks limit will be set way above that figure. A well-placed source said: ‘£100 is too low – we are talking about if people get into losing thousands. It’ll be pitched at a relatively high level where the vast majority of people won’t be affected.’
The source declined to say how the online affordability checks would be applied.
He said: ‘It may not be payslips, it could be something else.’ One proposal could involve credit reference checks where betting firms search for county court judgements, insolvency records and payday loan details without the customer being aware.
They would then classify online punters by a risk category.
Last night, Michael Dugher – chief executive of industry body the Betting and Gaming Council – said: ‘The industry support big changes.But intrusive Big Brother checks that go against personal freedom of choice or silly tokenistic changes like banning [betting] offers will just drive punters to the growing unsafe, unregulated black market online.
‘And they put the billions paid to the Treasury in tax by regulated operators at risk too.’
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