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Gambling review

'Checks could kill the sport' - racegoers react as Cheltenham pushes affordability petition drive

Punters in the stands enjoy the first race of the season at Cheltenham
Cheltenham: around 20,000 spectators were in attendance on FridayCredit: Edward Whitaker (

Racegoers on the opening day of Cheltenham's three-day November meeting have thrown their support behind British racing's petition to halt the implementation of controversial affordability checks. 

Paul Zealy, who travelled with his son from Hull, called on fellow racing fans to sign up and show their support for the petition, which had been signed by more than 85,000 people on Friday afternoon.

"Affordability checks could kill the sport, it's as simple as that," he said. "I understand there has to be some change to protect problem gamblers but this isn't doing it in the right way. I signed the petition right away and think everyone should, I don't know how bad it could be for racing.

"You'll see a lot of people who are here for the racing but those who attend the festival or big Saturdays are often there to have a bet. If they can't have a bet, they won't come. It will have a big impact."

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Cheltenham has sought to encourage its racegoers to get behind the petition on its biggest meeting outside of the festival in March through on-course messaging. Around 60,000 are expected to be on track across the three days with Saturday's crowd of 30,000 usually the busiest raceday in the jumps season outside of the big spring festivals.

Tracy Franks, making a rare racecourse visit from Peterborough, was unaware of the affordability checks issue but plans to sign up having discovered more.

Franks said: "I hadn't heard this was happening before coming here. I'd never want to give my personal details, but we're of the mind if you can't afford to spend then we won't and I can understand not everyone's like that. It's a big intrusion of privacy, they don't ask you at the bar, and I've got a friend who shops every day and nobody ever asks.

"I've learned about the petition here and we'll be looking into it a lot more on the way home. We'd be in favour of signing it."

Alan Wells, from Stroud, has been a member at Cheltenham for 20 years and added: "I'm not a big hitter so the checks wouldn't affect me but I'm against them because they will hurt the levy, which impacts racing. The sport has got a lot of issues and this would make things a lot worse."

The petition received a government response on Friday and if it reaches 100,000 signatures, the subject of affordability checks will be considered for debate in parliament.

Punters and the racing industry are being called on to sign a petition calling on the government to stop the implementation of affordability checks. You can sign the petition here.

Read these next

Government responds to British racing's petition calling for affordability checks to be scrapped 

Stuart Andrew set to continue overseeing government gambling reform following cabinet reshuffle 

Government seeking 'consistency' around affordability checks as interim measure - RCA chief 

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James StevensWest Country correspondent

Published on 17 November 2023inGambling review

Last updated 13:59, 17 November 2023