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Gambling review

John Gosden warns a 'torrent' of bettors are heading to black market in stark warning over affordability checks

John Gosden:
John Gosden: Britain's most successful Flat trainer was speaking as the clock ticks down on the Gambling Commission consultationCredit: Alan Crowhurst

John Gosden has warned the UK government and the Gambling Commission that affordability checks are already leading to a wholesale flight to unregulated black market operators by horseracing bettors.

Britain's most successful Flat trainer was speaking as the clock ticks down on a Gambling Commission consultation into proposals that would force licensed betting operators to conduct financial risk checks on customers who lose as little as £125 in 30 days or £500 in a year, with more extensive affordability checks kicking in for punters with net losses of £1,000 in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.

His was far from the lone voice of concern among those attending Book 2 of the Tattersalls Yearling Sales in Newmarket, and retired Derby-winning trainer and successful breeder Luca Cumani also described the current proposals as "a disaster for racing".

Gosden first aired his concerns to the Racing Post about the potential impact that affordability checks could have last year, while two weeks before the government introduced the white paper in April he warned that its imminent arrival could be "a bullet between the eyes" for British racing.

He has not been reassured since seeing the proposals currently being consulted upon. In particular, Gosden said that the government and Gambling Commission had failed to distinguish between betting on racing and games of chance such as roulette and online slots.

"The commission has a lack of understanding of the relationship between horseracing and gambling," said Gosden. "The area they need to target is the gaming and online casino market, which is on everyone's phone and in everyone's pocket.

"This is where the worst addictions develop. In contrast to that, gambling on horseracing requires deep research, a high degree of knowledge and understanding of a host of factors including form, going, draw, distance, pedigrees, jockey and trainer. It is not a casual 'shoot from the hip' bet."

Betting operators have already been forced to broaden their social responsibility and anti money-laundering policies to include affordability checks at varying levels under the threat of heavy sanctions from the Gambling Commission, a situation Gosden believes has left the door wide open to black market sites that offer no protection to their customers and contribute no money to the government through taxation or to racing through the levy and media rights.

"As I warned, the inevitable consequences of the way the commission is looking are to send gamblers to the unregulated black market," said Gosden. "What began as a small trickle has already become a torrent."

Tattersalls Book 2 Luca and Sara Cumani
Luca and Sara Cumani at Tattersalls Sales in Newmarket on MondayCredit: Alisha Meeder

Cumani retired from training in 2018 to concentrate on the breeding operation he runs with wife Sara at Fittocks Stud in Newmarket.

He fears that the uncertainty around the potential economic harm to the racing industry is already making ownership less attractive.

"There is a lack of clarity from both the commission and the government, which is bad for any business," said Cumani. "If the proposals that have been aired were to come in it would be a disaster for racing.

"It would disincentivise people to have horses in training, which would be very bad for the racing and breeding industry, and would have a knock-on effect on employment and rural affairs. All everyone in racing wants is clarity on these issues from the government and the Gambling Commission."

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport presented an impact analysis of the economic cost to racing when it published the white paper in April. That report claimed that in the first year after passage of the reforms, the loss of revenue to racing – reductions to the levy and media streaming rights caused by the negative impact of affordability checks – would be between £8.6 and £14.9 million.

But a Racing Post investigation published last week suggested that the damage to racing's finances could be as much as three times that amount, the initial impact assessment having failed to account for racing's greater reliance on big-staking punters who will be disproportionately affected by the checks and having based its forecast for media rights on an outdated understanding of how the payments are structured.

York chief executive William Derby last week described the proposals as exerting "huge pressure" on racecourse budgets, while Adam Waterworth, his counterpart at Goodwood, said at the weekend that he had never been so worried for the future of the sport during 30 years of working in racing.


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:

Gambling Commission slammed for 'unacceptable' decision not to release previous affordability consultation results 

'I'm not sure I've been as worried as I am now - it's a real threat' - Goodwood chief speaks out over affordability checks 

We asked the government and Gambling Commission a straight question – we did not get a straight answer 

York boss warns of 'huge pressure' on racecourses as reality bites on the true cost to racing of affordability checks 


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David MilnesNewmarket correspondent
Scott BurtonFrance correspondent

Published on 9 October 2023inGambling review

Last updated 19:36, 9 October 2023

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