Gambling review

Windsor MP warns affordability checks would 'destroy' British racing and urges colleagues to speak out at crucial debate

Adam Afriyie: "The proposals would utterly ruin a wonderful pastime"
Adam Afriyie: "The proposals would utterly ruin a wonderful pastime"Credit: Richard Townshend

The implementation of intrusive affordability checks is “destined to destroy” British racing and cost the industry tens of thousands of jobs, MP Adam Afriyie has warned as he called for his fellow politicians to make their voices heard at next month's pivotal parliamentary debate.

The Conservative MP for Windsor said that affordability checks risked relegating British racing and bloodstock from their world-leading positions, while also driving punters into using the unregulated black market and away from player protection measures.

Afriyie’s intervention comes as pressure grows on MPs to attend a critical Westminster Hall debate on February 26 after a petition calling on the affordability checks to be scrapped passed 100,000 signatures from the public in less than four weeks.

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An industry-wide campaign was launched by British racing this week to encourage those involved in the sport, those who bet and those who are fans to write to their MP to stress the importance of the debate to the future of the sport and to inform them ahead of the event of the potential consequences of affordability checks coming into force.

Afriyie, whose constituency contains Ascot and Windsor racecourses, said proposals to ask punters to provide sensitive financial information, such as payslips, to allow them to continue betting if breaching certain loss triggers, such as £1,000 in 24 hours, were wholly unreasonable.

He said: “Any proposals that force people to disclose personal financial information before placing a bet on the horses is destined to destroy the industry, along with tens of thousands of jobs. I, like most people, certainly wouldn't have a flutter at Ascot or the Monday night races in Windsor with these kind of intrusive checks in place. 

“There are a very small number of people with a serious addiction to gambling, which often goes hand in hand with other self-destructive behavioural problems. We must target help at these people, not penalise everyone else. 

“People aren't checked when they buy National Lottery tickets or scratch cards, and I suspect there are far more people getting into financial difficulty this way, and using black market sites online, than through horseracing.”

Afriyie said that implementation of affordability checks would be ruinous for his Windsor constituency, in which Windsor is set to be boosted by the return of jump racing this year, headed by the creation of the Berkshire Winter Millions Weekend in conjunction with Ascot.

“The proposals, if implemented, would utterly ruin a wonderful pastime in the Windsor constituency,” Afriyie said. “They would put hundreds of people out of work, hand over our world-leading events to overseas companies, and drive UK bets to the black market, where people will have no protection whatsoever. 

“I'm keen to participate in this debate to flag to ministers the threat that these completely unnecessary checks would pose to our healthy horseracing sector, and I would encourage others to do likewise.”

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This week trainers Sir Mark Prescott and Nicky Henderson stressed the importance of engaging MPs with next month’s debate, with Henderson saying it is “critical we all push our individual members of parliament to attend the debate” due to the impact of affordability checks on racing finances. It has previously been estimated the sport will lose £250m over the next five years as a result of the checks.

MPs such as Matt Hancock, whose West Suffolk constituency contains Newmarket, Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, who has Cheltenham racecourse within his constituency, and Philip Davies have also voiced their support for the debate.

Ralph Beckett:
Ralph Beckett: NTF will be calling on MPs for their supportCredit: Edward Whitaker

Ralph Beckett, president of the National Trainers Federation (NTF), said growing parliamentary support was vital for racing over the weeks ahead. He said: “We are grateful to a number of MPs in racing constituencies who have already spoken out in support of racing against the direction that the government are taking here and the damage that it is already doing to the sport. 

“NTF members will be doing all that they can to urge their MPs to make the time to attend this debate that will have direct consequences on their businesses and those who they employ.”

Paul Johnson, the NTF chief executive, said the fact the debate had been triggered by a petition reaching 100,000 signatures should be a key motivator for MPs to attend the debate as it highlighted the strength of feeling on the issue of affordability checks.

He said: “The fact that the petition on affordability checks reached over 100,000 signatures is a clear indication this is something that matters to people. Racing means a great deal to a number of constituencies across the country and we hope that as many MPs as possible will be in attendance for a discussion that could have far-reaching consequences for the sport and those who depend on it.”

Read more:

'The more support we can get the better' - training greats back calls to press MPs to engage in affordability checks debate 

Sir Mark Prescott issues rallying call for punters and racing to press MPs to attend crucial debate on affordability checks 

How to contact your MP to encourage them to participate in key debate on affordability checks 

Affordability checks: what your MP needs to know ahead of the big debate on February 26 

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Peter ScargillDeputy industry editor

Published on 31 January 2024inGambling review

Last updated 08:29, 1 February 2024