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Gambling review

'There'll be a significant drop-off of customers' - top gambling lawyer warns impact of affordability checks is underestimated

Entain and Flutter Entertainment publish their interim results this week

A leading gambling lawyer has warned that the financial blow likely to be caused by controversial affordability checks has been underestimated by the UK government. 

Bahar Alaeddini, a partner at specialist gambling firm Harris Hagan, predicted a "significant drop-off" of customers because they did not wish to consent to requests for information.

In April, the UK government published its long-awaited proposals for gambling reform in a white paper, which estimated the likely impact of what it described as "frictionless checks" on the gambling industry.

Figures from across British racing have expressed their concern over the knock-on effect of such checks, which it is claimed could wipe tens of millions of pounds from the sport's income if punters refused to submit to them.

"The key issue here is the meaning of frictionless and whether it means consent-free, and really the worrying disconnect between the government's policy and practice," said Alaeddini. 

"It seems to me the practical reality within the industry is that there's going to be a significant drop-off rate of customers after receiving a request for consent, whether for a credit reference agency check, open banking, or, indeed, to go through a manual check. That is going to be, in my humble opinion, far greater and higher than the amount modelled in the white paper."

In July, the Gambling Commission published a consultation on how affordability checks would be put into effect, which set out that information provided by credit reference agencies might not be enough to prevent large numbers of customers having to undergo more intrusive checks. The checks can include analysing information about customers, such as their postcode area and job titles.

Sports minister Stuart Andrew told MPs this month that financial risk checks would be introduced only when they were genuinely frictionless, and suggested such checks could be piloted to make sure they work.

Stuart Andrew is questioned on affordability checks
Stuart Andrew: told MPs this month that affordability checks would be genuinely frictionless

Alaeddini, who was speaking at a webinar on gambling compliance, added: "I welcome the confirmation last week that checks will be rolled out only when the government is confident they can be delivered frictionlessly.

"There's no doubt extensive support in the industry for levelling the playing field and providing consistency on these checks, so the positive thing is the white paper was an acknowledgement from the government that people should spend their dosh as they wish to. The challenge remains the implementation of the government's policy objective.

"As the minister has acknowledged, if the commission doesn't get this right, it will be very much open to challenge, which nobody wants because it's going to significantly delay things."

Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes has claimed that 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 also said checks would be carried out only on those betting online and would not take place in high-street bookmakers or at racecourses.

However, bookmakers have warned affordability checks on customers will inevitably extend into betting shops, and David Pluck, who has 35 shops across Merseyside and the north-west, has called for more clarity.

"I'm surprised some people don't think checks have been happening," said Pluck. "We do checks on customers that come in that appear to be unusual. We'd expect the Gambling Commission and the white paper to give us some sort of framework to work alongside, as what we want is some clarity. 

"We’ve read in the press, like everyone else, about the big fines for the PLCs surrounding non-compliance. We want to comply and change to make sure we don’t get fined. We want to make sure people can afford to spend what they're spending.

"If someone asked you to share your bank statements, you might well resent that even if the reasons you were being asked for were entirely innocent. What you have the risk of here is the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. 

"The people in betting shops value their privacy. If you press on with this in the way it is at the moment, you’re playing with fire as people will move to the black market. We need clarity from the Gambling Commission." 

  • 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: 

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

How losing punters are using bookmakers’ fears of the Gambling Commission to hold them to ransom 

'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'  

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Jonathan HardingReporter
Peter ScargillDeputy industry editor
Published on 17 September 2023Last updated 18:00, 17 September 2023