Gambling review

Revealed: Gambling Commission survey demonstrated considerable opposition to affordability checks

Average racecourse attendances showed a small increase in 2023
The Racing Post has seen results from a previously unpublished survey of attitudes towards affordability checks carried out in 2021Credit: Alan Crowhurst

Punters voiced considerable opposition to affordability checks in a survey carried out by the Gambling Commission more than three years ago, the results of which have only now been revealed after a freedom of information request.

The survey also showed the substantial degree to which punters would refuse to comply with checks.

The results come from a short survey conducted by the Gambling Commission which closed in February 2021 and which ran alongside a consultation and call for evidence on the actions gambling companies should be required to take to prevent harm to their online customers. 

The exercise prompted around 13,000 responses according to the industry regulator, 1,000 to the full consultation and call for evidence and 12,000 to the short survey.

The results were not published in full as they became wrapped into the government's gambling review which culminated in last year's white paper.

The Gambling Commission did say it would publish the results of the 2021 exercise alongside its response to last year's consultation on affordability checks – now known as financial risk checks.

However, when the response to the 2023 consultation was published in May the commission released only a summary of the results from 2021.

The Racing Post has now seen details from the 2021 short survey following a freedom of information request by industry analysts Regulus Partners. 

Of more than 12,000 respondents nearly 87 per cent described themselves as members of the public, almost 82 per cent said they gambled twice or more a week and nearly 92 per cent had gambled online in the previous four weeks.

Of the different activities respondents had participated in, betting on sports or other events was by far the most popular reply with more than 78 per cent having done so.

Around 75 per cent of respondents said that should an operator be aware that a customer was in a vulnerable position they should be required to take action to support them.

However, when asked if "gambling businesses should be required to assess if gambling is affordable?", 9,411 of the 12,124 responses to the question, 77.62 per cent, said no.

When asked why, 64.42 per cent of respondents said "customer freedom", while 61.4 per cent cited "customer privacy".

The level of opposition to affordability checks was also reflected in the 11,989 responses to a question on what they would they do if "asked for information from you to assess whether your gambling is affordable".

Only 14 per cent of respondents said they would provide information. In contrast, nearly 42 per cent said they would refuse to provide information, while 22.52 per cent said they would stop gambling with that operator and move to another until they too asked for information.

Credit reference agencies (CRAs) are set to be involved in the pilot of 'frictionless' affordability checks which is due to be launched in August.

The 2021 survey said that gambling businesses "can access limited information about customers from third parties such as credit reference agencies" and asked: "How comfortable would you feel about businesses accessing more information like this as a way of completing an affordability check?"

Two-thirds of the 12,066 respondents to this question said they would be either uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

Asked what would make people more comfortable in providing information more than half – 54.29 per cent – of the 12,001 responses to the question said they would never provide their data.

A previous request for disclosure of the results of the exercise by Regulus was turned down last year as the commission said there was "no outstanding public interest" in the information being released.

Regulus partner Dan Waugh said on Monday: "The commission has really had its hand forced here. It was clearly reluctant to share this information at all and then you look at the results and ask why could that be?

"Could it be that it is because it reveals considerable antipathy towards the policy from consumers, the very consumers whose interests the Gambling Commission is there to protect? The survey reveals a high degree of unwillingness from consumers to submit to checks – something that may reinforce concerns that the regulator has under-estimated the impact on racing.

"It raises doubts, which have been expressed before, about the extent to which the Gambling Commission is in earnest when it runs these consultations because it has an uncanny knack of doing precisely what it sets out to do regardless of what people submit in evidence."

 Gambling Commission: "Perhaps it's right. Maybe I do need protecting"
Gambling Commission: "We have listened to the issues raised throughout our considerations on this topic"

A Gambling Commission spokesperson said on Monday that consumer input was "vital" for its policy development, adding: "We have listened to the issues raised throughout our considerations on this topic."

The commission did not respond directly to a question about why the information had not previously been released.

The spokesperson said the 2021 call for evidence took place when the commission was exploring the concept of affordability checks and did not relate to specific proposals. 

They added: "We carefully considered the views and detailed comments from those who responded to this call for evidence in developing our specific proposals for financial risk assessments. 

"We then also further considered views from all stakeholders in response to our specific consultation proposals and undertook consumer research as an additional important input to the consultation. 

"We took the same approach for all consultation topics in our response to the summer 2023 consultation and focused on substantive issues which had been raised rather than the detailed percentage breakdown of consultation responses by question."

Read these next:

Liberal Democrats reveal proposals to tackle problem gambling and introduce 'effective' affordability checks in manifesto 

Racecourse Media Group blames affordability checks for drop in payments to shareholders 

General election called for July 4 as government pledges levy update 'very shortly' and reiterates affordability promise 

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Industry editor

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