Need for punters' charter questioned by Remote Gambling Association head
The need for the Horseracing Bettors Forum's ten-point charter, which was revealed on Sunday and the aims of which include the protection of punters' funds and the laying of minimum bets, has been called into question by the boss of the Remote Gambling Association.
Clive Hawkswood, RGA chief executive, said the HBF's Simon Rowlands had consulted with his organisation during the drawing up of the charter and said he believed the intention behind the initiative was good.
However, Hawkswood added his members, which include most of the world's largest internet betting firms, felt it would have been inappropriate for the RGA to formally endorse the charter.
"I'm sure Simon would have liked to have seen some sort of endorsement but we didn't feel we could do that," Hawkswood explained on Monday.
"The overall view was that we were not sure what gap it was filling, given most of the points raised are covered by the Gambling Commission. We also questioned whether it's right for something like this to be calling for the laying of minimum bets and that sort of thing."
Doubt was also expressed by Hawkswood about the HBF's credentials but he added that, ultimately, it was concerns about the substance of the charter itself that led to the withholding of any endorsement.
"The question was raised as to who the HBF is representing exactly, but that can be a problem with any punters' group really, it can be self-selecting," said Hawkswood. "I know they have elections for the committee but I've no idea how many people are involved.
"In the end though, I don't think that was the main factor because if the ideas were right, why would we care where they're coming from?
"It was much more that people felt that most of the points are things people are either already doing or are covered by our regulator. People generally were not convinced there is a need for a charter of this kind.
"Terms and conditions must be fair, of course, but that's what the Competition and Markets Authority are looking at at the moment, and the Gambling Commission will enforce that with new rules and guidelines in the new year.
"Problem gambling too is top of our agenda and the Gambling Commission's, so there's not much there that isn't being covered already."
The HBF's charter, which has the backing of the BHA, calls on bookmakers to lay a horse to lose a minimum £500 per selection per race from 8am on raceday in all Listed, Graded and Group races on the Flat and over jumps, plus in Class 1, 2 and 3 handicaps, and lay to lose a minimum £500 per selection per race from no later than an hour before the advertised off in all other races.
Other aims include transparent account verification procedures, advances protection of punters' funds, and evidence that restrictions or account closures are adopted only as a last resort.
Rowlands himself stressed that while the HBF was keen to work with the betting industry to achieve its goals, the group "will act independently if necessary in pursuit of a better future for all concerned".