A petition that opposed widespread affordability checks in the UK gambling sector will be debated in parliament on February 26 after it reaches 100,000 votes. Players and operators are making their voices heard and now the government will respond. But what is the issue, what are the propositions, and what does all of this mean for the UK gambling industry?
What are the Affordability Checks?
New affordability checks were proposed in the Gambling Act white paper, published in 2023. The idea is that gambling operators would be required to check that a player can afford to lose the money they are betting, such as by checking their income. Source of Funds requests already exist in the UK betting and gaming sectors and you’ll find reference to them in many terms and conditions. The difference is that the new requirements would apply to players losing just £125 a month or £500 a year.
That’s a lot of money to some players, and those wagering the odd weekend tenner won’t be affected, but to frequent gamblers, it’s the equivalent of a little more than £4 a day for the monthly threshold and £1.36 per day for the annual threshold. It’s also an instant headache for anyone who regularly deposits and wagers upwards of £100 at a time.
What is the Issue?
The UK gambling market has undergone some significant changes in the last couple of years, as the government pushes to reduce problem gambling in a time of economic hardship. For the most part, these changes have been embraced by operators, with either indifference or support from players. But affordability checks are an exception.
Players don’t want the hassle of jumping through more hoops when placing bets. They already need to undergo a soft credit check, and if that doesn’t work they’ll be asked to submit a photo ID, utility bill, and even proof of payment. It’s not just a time issue, either, as many players are reluctant to provide a business with all of that information. That’s especially true for bonus hunters, players who join site after site to collect welcome bonuses, use whatever freebies they can get, spend a few days on the site, and then leave in search of a new one.
Surveys suggest that many players will respond to the proposed changes by turning to the black market and using sites that aren’t regulated in the UK and thus don’t provide the same security guarantees. Although risky, these sites don’t expect players to run a financial gauntlet every time they play. This is cause for concern among operators and industry bodies, including the Jockey Club, which registered the petition in the first place.
It’s a concern for problem gambling organisations as well. On the one hand, it could prevent some players in the UK from gambling more than they can afford, but if that comes at the expense of driving thousands of players onto unsafe, unregulated sites, is it worth it?
There’s always been a risk of potential problem gamblers turning to the veritable Wild West of unregulated gaming and betting. But if the loss thresholds are low and the requirements are strict or time-consuming, many casual gamblers could make the switch, taking money away from UK-registered businesses and placing themselves at risk.
Will it Go Through?
It remains to be seen whether or not the affordability checks will be implemented, but the aforementioned petition certainly gives MPs something to think about. If 100,000 people sign a petition in just 27 days, clearly it needs more scrutiny and may not be in their best interests after all.