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Gambling review

It's D-day for punters as Gambling Commission chiefs face grilling from MPs over affordability checks

Gambling Commission

The head of the Gambling Commission will on Tuesday be grilled by MPs at a key select committee meeting as controversy continues to grow over the introduction of affordability checks on bettors.

Chief executive Andrew Rhodes, his deputy Sarah Gardner and executive director Tim Miller will face questions from members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of its inquiry into gambling regulation.

One MP on Monday said he hoped the session would feature tough questioning and be pivotal for punters increasingly embittered by the intrusive checks.

The industry regulator is in the middle of a consultation about its proposals for implementing the gambling white paper and has attracted intense criticism for its interpretation of the government's plans around financial checks.

In particular, critics have homed in on the degree to which the Gambling Commission's proposals will comply with the government's intention that the checks should be 'frictionless', with fears that many bettors will have no choice but to provide access to bank statements and other financial information. 

Proposals to treat gambling winnings as losses after as little as seven days and to require the checks to be rerun as often as every six months have also prompted widespread concerns about the degree to which the regulator is reinterpreting the government's intentions. 

Stuart Andrew is set to take on ministerial responsibility for gambling
Stuart Andrew: the minister with responsibility for gambling will give oral evidence at 11am on Tuesday

The white paper proposed that 'enhanced financial checks' – the government's preferred term for affordability checks – would be triggered by spend of £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days, but politicians have repeatedly promised the checks would be frictionless and the impact on both bettors and racing minimal.

Writing in the Racing Post in April when the white paper was released, gambling minister Stuart Andrew said: "[For] the very few players who undergo checks, these will happen in the background against information already publicly available so the process is completely frictionless."

Culture minister Lucy Frazer, speaking in the Commons when the white paper was unveiled, also said: "Most people will not know that the checks [ . . . ] are happening. They will be frictionless and happen behind the scenes: Eighty per cent of people will have to do nothing at all and 20 per cent will have a simple check on whether they have been made bankrupt or have a county court judgement against them."

Andrew will also face questions from the committee after the evidence session involving the commission.

Conservative MP Philip Davies said he would have liked to have been a member of the committee in order to have quizzed both Rhodes and Andrew.

"There are loads of questions he [Rhodes] needs to answer and I hope they give him a hard time," Davies said.

"With Stuart Andrew he needs to be asked about the impact on horseracing and how he can be so sure the Gambling Commission's consultation they have inspired is not going to do damage to horseracing.

"They certainly should be asking him if he has been reading what's been written in the Racing Post about it from punters and owners, has he actually read any of that."

The issue of the treatment of punters' winnings in the consultation was one of a number of areas Davies would like Rhodes to be questioned about.

He said: "The key things are why they think that losses should be calculated over a long period of time but winnings should only be offset against them for seven days. That's a key question that needs to be asked.

"Another thing I want to ask him is why they have a lived experience panel made up entirely of people who have had problem gambling issues and why they don't have a panel of people who enjoy gambling, don't have a problem and have difficulty instead with things like accounts being restricted or having to give lots of information even though they don't have a problem with their gambling."

Davies also said he would ask the commission why it has not given bookmakers clearer advice to pre-empt regulatory action being taken against operators such as the heavy fines and penalties handed out to the likes of William Hill and Entain.

"Why don't they make sure they don't go wrong in the first place, wouldn't that be better for the punter, the business and everybody?" Davies asked. 

"They are letting bookmakers fail, causing harm to people, when they could have cut it off at the pass. Why do they not to do that?"


Who is appearing and who will be putting the questions?

Conservative MP Dame Caroline Dinenage chairs the 11-member Commons select committee on culture, media and sport which will hold two key sessions of questioning concerned with gambling reform on Tuesday morning.

Kicking off at 10am, the first hour is set aside for the committee members to grill Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes, who will be accompanied to the hearing by his deputy, Sarah Gardner, as well as Tim Miller, the regulator's executive director for research and policy.

From 11am it will be the turn of Stuart Andrew MP to give oral evidence. He is the DCMS minister with responsibility for the gambling portfolio since February this year, the sixth since the British government's review began in December 2020.

The hearing will offer by far the most detailed scrutiny of the government's thinking on the future of gambling, including Andrew's stated commitment to 'frictionless' affordability checks, as well as the Gambling Commission's view of its role in the process.

All members of the committee will have the opportunity to question their invited guests and so, in terms of the lines of inquiry taken, much depends on individual MPs existing positions on a variety of subjects.

Dinenage – whose father Fred was a well-known news, entertainment and sports presenter on ITV – spent 18 months as a minister within the DCMS in 2020-21, although she did not hold the gambling brief during that period. Her previous junior ministerial roles were in social care and later health.

The committee comprises six Conservative MPs, four from the Labour Party and one SNP member, John Nicolson, a strident critic of gambling operators in previous evidence-gathering hearings.

In addition to Nicolson, other members of the committee to speak during the debate on the floor of the house which followed secretary of state Lucy Frazer's introduction of the white paper in April were Conservative Damian Green and Labour's Clive Efford and Kevin Brennan, when all three expressed their concern to shield children from exposure to gambling content.


  • To complete the Gambling Commission's consultation on affordability checks, visit racingpost.com/consultation 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 editor@racingpost.com with the subject 'Affordability checks' to share your experiences, your thoughts about the government's proposals, and your contact details.

Read these next:

The key questions MPs must ask Gambling Commission chiefs in crucial meeting 

'All of a sudden you're being made to feel guilty for having a flutter. Why can't it be taken as an enjoyment?' 

'Why is gambling different?' - sports minister to be scrutinised on affordability checks by punters' body 


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Bill BarberIndustry editor

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