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Gambling review

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

Greg Knight: "The government is quick to try and alleviate fears, but you have got to let people be adults"
Greg Knight: "The government is quick to try and alleviate fears, but you have got to let people be adults"

Bookmakers have warned that affordability checks on customers will inevitably extend into betting shops due to pressure from the Gambling Commission, with one operator describing the situation as “a complete mess”.

Leading figures at two independent bookmakers expressed scepticism and uncertainty about recent assurances from Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes that affordability checks would only be carried out on those betting online and would not take place in high street bookmakers or at racecourses.

These concerns from bookmakers have added to the sense of confusion and anxiety about the commission's ongoing consultation into the government’s gambling review white paper. Punters have publicly doubted the ability of bookmakers to conduct frictionless affordability checks, while some racehorse owners are cutting back on their investment due to the potential damage to the sport’s finances and the hostile environment for betting on their horses.

Howard Chisholm, managing director of Chisholm Bookmakers, said affordability checks would extend beyond being online and would potentially exacerbate the movement of people from the regulated market to the unregulated black market.  

“The problem with affordability checks is that while they start online they will almost certainly be applied in shops,” he said. “This is going to be done without any guidance and it’s going to be a complete mess. 

“The staff in our shops know the regular customers, but we can’t do these checks in the background like they do online without the customer knowing. Will we have to stand them up in front of the counter and ask, ‘What’s your date of birth, where do you live, what’s your passport number?’.

“If you’re asking a customer online for this information and they don’t want to give it then they’ll go to a retail shop and if they then face these checks, which they will have to face, then eventually they will go to the black market. You can't stop this, you just move it on.”

Howard Chisholm: spoke to delegates at the Bookmakers Trade Fair in Solihull
Howard Chisholm: "Eventually punters will go to the black market. You can't stop this, you just move it on"

Social responsibility and anti-money laundering checks already take place in betting shops. Greg Knight, managing director of Jenningsbet, said retail customers tended to bet at lower levels, which might lead to them taking longer to reach any affordability thresholds.

He said: “Retail is a different beast. It’s a different customer to begin with as the average stake for retail nationwide is £12-13.” 

However, punters are growing increasingly concerned about the impact of the checks, according to Knight, who added: “It’s the main talking point of our customers and within the industry as it impacts anyone who is interested in betting or sport. There’s a huge groundswell of opinion that it’s not the government’s business.

“It’s a slippery slope and I don’t how this doesn’t seep into other parts of people’s lives. The government is quick to try and alleviate fears, but you have got to let people be adults.”

In a letter to the Racing Post, Rhodes claimed three per cent of all betting accounts would be subject to enhanced affordability checks, of which around 90 per cent would be carried out through credit reference agencies and open-source banking via a regulated third-party provider. 

He said: "These checks will not give gambling companies access to customers’ full bank account data, and any information operators receive must only ever be used for assessing risks of harm, rather than practices like identifying and restricting winners."

Rhodes claimed the proposals related to online gambling only, adding: “They would not apply to betting in bookmakers or at the racetrack. High street bookmakers may decide to carry out checks based on social responsibility or anti-money laundering risks but these changes being consulted on apply only to online gambling."

He also remarked on "an assumption that credit checks impact a credit rating and could damage credit scores", claiming these soft credit checks will not do so.

"Credit scores will be unaffected," he added, "and data on a customer’s gambling behaviour will not be shared with the financial sector under these proposals."

Rhodes also claimed that most bettors would not undergo checks under the proposals. He repeated a recent pledge that the government and the commission would not mandate bookmakers to implement checks at levels such as those proposed in the consultation "until we were sure that they can be delivered frictionlessly for the vast majority of customers who would be checked".

  • 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 on the Gambling Review here:

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

'I've been betting for more than 40 years but people like me are just going to disappear' 

BHA hits back over Gambling Commission's claims that the black market threat is overstated 

These men know nothing about betting - but they're on a mission to ruin it for us anyway 

'I've been betting for more than 40 years but people like me are just going to disappear' 

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Peter ScargillDeputy industry editor
Published on 13 September 2023Last updated 18:20, 13 September 2023