Ridiculous bet restrictions and pathetic account closures need to be addressed
It is probably not unfair to claim that, on occasions, what politicians say is not automatically mirrored by what politicians then do. Yet even those of us imbued with an excess of scepticism must have been cheered by some powerful words spoken in the House of Commons on Thursday.
When gambling minister Chris Philp was asked by fellow Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen if the government's new legislative proposals for the gambling industry – due to be announced in a white paper over the coming months – would be presented in tandem with an impact assessment on the horseracing industry, the answer given could hardly have been more encouraging.
As has been asserted repeatedly and for good reason, the government's review of the Gambling Act 2005 would inflict colossal damage on British racing if it culminates in punters being subjected to extreme affordability checks or a bookmaker advertising ban.
Assuring Bridgen that a thorough impact assessment would be carried out, Philp extolled racing's virtues and stated, without any equivocation: "Nothing in the Gambling Act review, I hope, will do anything to undermine the financial condition of that great sport or its place at the heart of our national life." Philp then repeated that position in a question posed by Tory backbencher Laurence Robertson.
It would be supremely foolish to count any chickens or become any less vocal on the need for an evidence-based review, particularly as those working on the white paper will still be receptive to lobbying from interested parties. Even so, Philp's comments were positive and understandably welcomed by BHA chief executive Julie Harrington.
Chris Philp claimed in the House of Commons that the gambling review would not inflict damage on racing Chris Philp claimed in the House of Commons that the gambling review would not inflict damage on racing There is, however, another matter of considerable significance to punters that ministers and officials within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport must examine before outlining their objectives to parliament.
When the government last year requested submissions as part of its review deliberations, the Horseracing Bettors Forum called for bookmakers in the United Kingdom to be required to offer customers a minimum bet limit, similar to the one that British and Irish bookmakers operating successfully in Australia are compelled to honour. It seems highly unlikely the white paper will insist on such a rule but it could and should take action that would pressurise bookmakers to behave better.
This column has regularly berated bookmakers for pathetic account closures and ridiculous restrictions. It is a very good thing indeed that the gambling review has afforded the group representing punters the opportunity to bring the subject to the attention of government. It would be even better if at least some action is taken to help those many punters who are treated in the sort of shoddy manner that would simply not be possible in Australia, where racing authorities have statutory powers to force bookmaking organisations to lay punters to win $2,000 on a metropolitan win and each-way bet.
If it can happen there, it should be perfectly possible for it to happen here. Indeed, Betfair Sportsbook, to their credit, already guarantee to lay account holders up to £500 or €500 on any win bet from 10am on the day of a race.
Bookmakers in this part of the world warn a minimum bet limit would actually prove damaging to those who bet, yet punters in Australia seem to cope with it without suffering huge hardship. (We should remember they only had to start shouting for a limit when the "corporates" – British and Irish firms – began closing their accounts and restricting wagers.) Specifically, bookmakers argue if a minimum bet limit was introduced other valued concessions would have to go. That is a regrettable tactic from businesses making enormous profits.
It is most definitely regrettable that the HBF's chair, Colin Hord, had restrictions placed on an account that had won a total of just £280 over seven months. The largest bet struck in that time was £3 each-way. Hord recently attempted to place a £1 each-way bet on that account. He discovered the 'layer' would accept no more than 50 pence each-way.
That some punters can have bets of only a few pounds or pence on Cheltenham Festival races is ridiculous That some punters can have bets of only a few pounds or pence on Cheltenham Festival races is ridiculous Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) There are numerous stories like that – in this column last year we referenced a reader who was advised he could have a bet of only 71 pence on the Cheltenham Festival's leading trainer market – but there is no data that tells us exactly how many punters are unreasonably shown a red card. The HBF is therefore right to have urged the DCMS to oblige bookmakers to notify the Gambling Commission whenever a customer has an account terminated or limited.
Where bookmakers believe a punter is acting improperly they should certainly take action. However, it is nonsensical that honest punters are told they can stake only a few pounds, or even pennies, on the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup or Grand National. It is perplexing that bookmakers will not look beyond the algorithms that trigger restrictions and it is frustrating that punters who suffer are simply informed of "a trading decision" and invariably given no meaningful opportunity to engage in an appeal process.
This all matters to racing because most fans of the sport get pleasure from betting on it. If their freedom to enjoy that hobby is curtailed it is likely their interest in racing will be eroded.
It is therefore vital that senior figures in British racing governance and administration – including across the racecourse sector – become more vocal on a matter of real importance.
We should want this gambling review to result in fair and equitable treatment of bookmakers. We should equally demand that punters receive fair and equitable treatment from bookmakers.
Ridiculous bet restrictions and pathetic account closures need to be addressedIt is probably not unfair to claim that, on occasions, what politicians say is not automatically mirrored by what politicians then do. Yet even those of us imbued with an e
yesterday I tried to have £10 e/w on a 100/1 shot ....I could not have that ....but I could have £9.70...... I take it they are having cashflow problems if that extra 30p was an issue
Restrictions I understand but ....yesterday I tried to have £10 e/w on a 100/1 shot ....I could not have that ....but I could have £9.70...... I take it they are having cashflow problems if that extra 30p was an issue