‘Frictionless’ nature of financial risk checks questioned by ministers

Home » ‘Frictionless’ nature of financial risk checks questioned by ministers

The question of whether financial risk checks will be truly frictionless was a key theme of Monday’s formal UK debate on the white paper proposal.


Former health secretary Matt Hancock, whose West Suffolk constituency envelops Newmarket racecourse, insisted the government is “making a mistake” with the policy, adding “we must stop and start again.”

He questioned the “distinct problem” caused by what he claimed are differing viewpoints from both the Gambling Commission and gambling minister Stuart Andrew about the intrusiveness of the checks.

Hancock said: “The Gambling Commission has interpreted the Minister saying checks will be frictionless as meaning ‘frictionless for the vast majority,’ which is different.

“These checks, if they are to happen at all, should be frictionless. The minister has committed to that and it is government policy, yet we have a regulator wrongly misinterpreting ‘frictionless’ as ‘frictionless for the vast majority.’”

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Hancock insisted the effect on the horseracing industry – which led the charge in getting affordability checks on the parliamentary agenda – is “already happening.”

“We have seen that the betting turnover on racing fell by £900 million in 2022-23,” Hancock said.

“Prize money is going up in the rest of the world but is incredibly tight in the United Kingdom. The impact is biggest on the small racecourses, but there is even an impact on Newmarket, which hosts the two finest racecourses in the world.”

However, Andrew insisted the financial risk check proposals will represent a “significant improvement for both businesses and customers, compared with the current situation.”

He said the government and the Gambling Commission “recognise that it is not our job to tell people how to spend their money,” instead looking to balance the “freedom” of spending with the “necessary action” on gambling harms.

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“The proposed system will be a significant improvement by having clear and proportionate rules to which all operators are held, allowing for financial data to be shared seamlessly with operators instead of burdening customers with information,” Andrew said.

“I am therefore clear that we must ensure that the checks do not adversely affect racing or those who work in the [horseracing] sector, or interrupt the customer journey. They also must not push away high-net-worth individuals such as owners and trainers that invest in the sport.”

Among the other speakers on the debate was Conor McGinn, who represents St Helens North and the Haydock racecourse.

He said: “It’s bad policy by any objective measure and it’s hard to find any objective measure because this is not evidence-based.

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“It’s incoherent and at many levels it’s in response to anecdote and to emotion.

“This is massive government overreach and infringement on the rights of the individual. For no other legal leisure activity in the UK has the government set out spending limits in this fashion.”

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