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'An ill-targeted, blanket, one-size-fits-all policy' - Conservative peer hits out over affordability checks

Lord Herbert of South Downs: has warned of the impact of affordability checks on British racing
Lord Herbert of South Downs: has warned of the impact of affordability checks on British racing

A member of the House of Lords on Friday described the Gambling Commission's proposals for affordability checks as "ill-targeted" and highlighted the severe impact they would have on British racing's finances.

Conservative peer Lord Herbert said it would be a "tragedy" if any potential gains from levy reform were undone by the impact of affordability checks, which he says will be greater than the government suggests.

"The BHA is right to be worried about affordability checks because their impact on racing's finances is clearly going to be serious," said Herbert, who also debated the issue in the House of Lords on Thursday.

"The government has admitted there will be an impact on racing's finances. I'm concerned the sport might secure an increase in the levy only for it to be cancelled out by the impact of affordability checks.

"As I said in the debate, that would be for the government to give with one hand and take away with the other. It would be a tragedy if those gains were to be eroded by a policy I don't think will work anyway."

In April the government finally published its proposals for gambling reform in a white paper which included plans for two tiers of financial risk checks it promised would be "frictionless".

The Gambling Commission published a consultation on how these would be put into effect in July which set out that information provided by credit reference agencies might not be enough to prevent large numbers of customers still having to undergo more intrusive checks.

"It's an ill-targeted, blanket, one-size-fits-all policy," said Herbert. "A better policy instrument would be to focus on the problem gamblers and I think there are legitimate concerns about how this could be implemented.

"We're already seeing the effects. I believe the government is genuine in wanting frictionless checks but because we don't have the technology for that, these checks are bound to have an impact, and for no real gain."

It has been suggested the checks could include an analysis of a customer's postcode area, something Herbert described as "discriminatory" and an "outrageous abuse of state power" in the House of Lords.

"I think it's highly illiberal," he added. "The idea that the type of work you do or where you live should somehow bar you from spending your own money. I think it's outrageous and the worst kind of postcode lottery."

Herbert disagrees with the principle of affordability checks and says they should be dropped. He also argues they will drive punters to the black market, a threat he believes the commission underestimates.

The commission's consultation closes on October 18.

Clarification, September 18: a previous version of this story reported that Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller had stated there could be "real value" in including job titles as part of proposed financial risk checks. Miller actually said the commission would be "looking at [...] the real value" of including job titles in checks, following feedback from operators that they do not routinely ask for that information.

To complete the Gambling Commission's consultation on affordability checks, visit and follow the instructions.

The Racing Post also wants to hear from you: What has been your experience of affordability checks since the white paper was published at the end of April, and what do you think of the government's proposals? Have affordability checks affected your betting behaviour?

It's a chance for your voice to be heard. Email the Racing Post at with the subject 'Affordability checks' to share your experiences, your thoughts about the government's proposals, and your contact details

Read more:

Bookmakers say affordability checks 'almost certain to be applied in shops' despite Gambling Commission assurances 

'We're going to be hammered by this' - syndicate founder Hughes to halve string with owners hit by affordability checks 

Affordability checks won't happen unless frictionless, vows minister 

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Jonathan HardingReporter
Published on 15 September 2023Last updated 18:00, 15 September 2023