Affordability checks: a sledgehammer to crack a nut or responsible oversight?
This year’s racing politics has been dominated by one topic, namely the Gambling Commission’s proposed affordability checks, designed to protect the vulnerable from overstretching themselves, but in danger of alienating owners and regular bettors who feel quite comfortable in backing up their judgement with significant stakes. Equally importantly, it’s been estimated that checks could cost racing £250m in lost revenue over the next 5 years at a time when our racing needs a fair wind to prevent falling behind international competitors.
There is no-one in racing who doesn’t recognize that a caring society is obligated to protect vulnerable people from chasing losses and running up unrecoverable debts, least of all responsible bookmaking forms whose reputations then come under scrutiny.
Nor is there any doubt that over prurient legislation and control of gambling tends to be a cyclical process, in which we are nearing the top end of the cycle where policing is deemed at its most inflexible. It certainly wasn’t like this when Gordon Brown removed general betting tax, and created the gambling culture that had been started with the advent of the National Lottery under John Major.
Of course, we aren’t the only racing jurisdiction under similar scrutiny. The Irish Dáil is currently assessing the impact of banning bookmaker advertising before 9pm on Irish TV, which would force the retraction of Racing UK from televising Irish racing, a catastrophic shot in the foot for a sport in which Ireland leads the world. In Australia, there is similar pressure to push back against free bets, advertising in media and on TV and bookmaker promotions that have been stock in trade for over 20 years. Racing at large is on the back foot, riding on the back of losses mostly incurred by punters in other sports like football.
This does not take into account the legions of occasional bettors who enjoy a flutter on the gee-gees, who look forward to a fiver on the National every April, or who join as guests in some client entertainment function on a once-yearly basis. These folk do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool, but it’s always an idea to understand the basics of horse racing and betting terminology (indeed of any new hobby) before you start enjoying it to its optimum. It’s our job as racing promoters to familiarise these newcomers with the different types of horse racing bet, such as Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, and Superfecta. Each bet offers varying degrees of risk and reward, so understanding how they work is crucial to nurturing return visits and spend from these folk.
Getting to know the horses, jockeys, trainers, and their track records is never a guarantee of success on an occasional basis; we’ve all been racing with big winners who “liked his colour” or “thought the lad leading up was good-looking”. Studying form provides valuable insights but can be dry reading material. Factors like recent form, track preference, and jockey-trainer partnerships influence a horse’s performance significantly, but they’re not for everyone. In the same way, checks when you stake a wager look like injecting something serious into a frivolous act – a real killjoy effect.
Understanding the odds is equally vital. In a previous career running a major racecourse, our schools programme tried to use bookmaker odds as a device to have children understand how to calculate fractions. Odds reflect the probability of a horse winning a race and the potential payout, but only the Tote provides odds that are readily comprehensible to those not familiar with terms like 85/40 or 11/8. The basic maths behind favourites with lower odds, indicating a higher chance of winning but lower payouts, and long shots with higher odds, signifying a lower likelihood of winning but higher payouts should be elementary, but to a surprising number, are clearly not. By grasping these fundamentals, occasional bettors make more informed betting decisions, enhancing their overall experience at oddsmakers like Mystake Casino.
Betting on horse racing can be incredibly exhilarating, but it’s essential to approach it with a clear and rational mind. Affordability checks as they are proposed presently pay no regard to the relative scale of a bet to a customer’s income. That said, bookmakers know their regular clients, and keep assiduous records of account holders success or failure. Successful gamblers like Patrick Veitch can attest to this as their accounts are closed when they win too regularly!
But you don’t have to be a punter to know that it’s best to set a budget and adhere to it religiously. Punters don’t need a government to determine how much money they’re comfortable with losing. This doesn’t need a nanny state to advise you; it’s basic common sense which needs no legislation.
Betting is a source of entertainment, not a source of financial stress. Gamblers trying out Mystake casino can safeguard themselves against impulsive decisions that can lead to losses.
But one of the joys of racing is gaining knowledge about particular horses and supporting one’s own judgement with a wager. If staking oneself is to be heavily monitored and in some instances prevented, much of the joy of racing will be curtailed for those that have made themselves “in the know”.
In racing, knowledge truly is power. Keeping updated with the latest news, expert analyses, and insider tips about the horses and jockeys competing in upcoming races, browsing bookmaker sites like Mystake Casino often provides valuable unique intel, not limited to expert predictions and detailed race analyses, to assist gamblers in making informed choices.
Networking with fellow racing fans and joining online forums or communities can also provide valuable insights and perspectives aside from the joy of sharing a hobby with like-minded souls. Engaging in discussions and sharing knowledge with others can enhance understanding of horse racing, which in itself is how we, as promoters, grow the audience. This is one reason why people become owners; they share in the joy of the stable’s success, even if they don’t necessarily own a winner themselves. this inside track mentality is at the heart of racing’s appeal.
If you haven’t joined the petition against affordability checks, then I’d recommend you do so. Our trade paper, the Racing Post, has led on this public reaction, but equally, the BHA is also lobbying government and individual MPs, many of whom, like Matt Hancock, or indeed our Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, look after racing constituencies. Over 40,000 have already supported the petition, and a threshold of 100,000 forces debate in the House of Commons.
Time for all who love racing to protect the status quo.