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OpinionSteve Palmer

Punters must unite to ward off the Affordability Police

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Steve PalmerRacing Post Sport
Dramatised (left) surges clear at Haydock on Saturday
Racing, the UK's second-largest sport, could be under existential threatCredit: John Grossick

My good lady wife sent me a text the other day which read: would you mind hovering upstairs before I get home?

As a devoted husband, I always aim to please, so did my best. I thought it was an odd request but assumed there must be a sensible rationale behind it so I set about my mission. It was only when she walked through the door three hours later that I realised there had been an awful miscommunication.

There I was, unsuccessfully attempting to levitate on the landing, bemoaning my beer belly and the various other reasons I was failing to achieve take-off, when it became clear that my better half was, in fact, worrying about our dirty carpets. She had wanted me to hoover, not hover.

Some things are important. Spelling is important. One missing letter can change the course of a man's afternoon. And petitions are important. Petitions can change the course of history. You, my friend, if you haven't already, need to sign the petition calling for the government to "Stop the implementation of betting affordability/financial risk checks".

The petition can be found on the UK government and parliament petitions website. It is registered in the name of Jockey Club chief executive Nevin Truesdale, but he speaks for the whole of the racing industry and its customers. He speaks for me and he speaks for you because by reading the Racing Post you must have a love of sport or betting – and most likely both.

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Racing, the UK's second-largest sport, could be under existential threat unless you sign this petition. And sports betting, my greatest passion for three decades, may become a dark journey underground for many punters to unlicensed, unregulated sites unless you sign this petition.

Truesdale by name, truth-speaker by nature – his detailed justification for this petition is absolutely spot-on – and the punting community need to give Truesdale the support he requires to make maximum impact in the corridors of power. If 100,000 people sign his petition, the proposal to stop the hugely damaging affordability checks will be considered for debate in parliament.

How long does it take to sign a petition? Less time than it takes to make a cup of tea. Less time than it takes for me to make love to my aforementioned wife. There is no excuse for lethargy here. If you fail to sign the petition, don't come moaning to me in the summer that your only option for placing a bet is with Big Dodgy Dave Bookmakers in the Royal Oak car park.

It is crucial to get this subject debated fully in parliament. Rushed and distracted MPs can be quick to make judgements ("Ooh, is this supposed to tackle problem gambling? Ok, I'll go along with that then – that'll make me look good...") without considering every consequence. As with so many potential laws, the probable knock-on effects only reveal themselves when you have a jolly good think about things.

If making a law which aimed to get rid of problem gambling actually destroyed racing and decimated licensed bookmaking in the process, surely there is not a sane MP in the Commons who would look back fondly on their work. And the place is full of people who adore racing (not to mention the long line of avid racing fans in the British monarchy, like Queen Camilla).

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham and Minister of State for Employment, has ridden at Cheltenham. He rode a winner at Sedgefield as recently as 2019. Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, is a board member of the Racehorse Owners Association.

Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, moved a debate in Westminster Hall last month on the Future of Horseracing. It is clear from the Parallel Parliament minutes of that gathering that Hancock fully understands the stark contrast between online casino gambling (and FOBTs) and using skill and judgement to predict the winner of a sporting contest. Opperman, Davies and Hancock can lead the defence of racing and betting if 100,000 petition signatures are secured.

I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here? Well, I'm a punter – get me some civil liberties. Why are the government planning to tell me how I can spend my money?

If I want to buy 10,000 National Lottery tickets a day, they will not bat an eyelid. If I want to buy and drink 25 cans of lager a day, I can. If I want to buy 50 new chairs tomorrow, stack them on top of each other in my garden, climb to the summit of the chair mountain in just my pants and repeatedly shout to the rest of the neighbourhood: "I am the king of the world and I can fly unaided to the moon!", I can.

Do you think any of that is a good idea? No, me neither, but I am free to do so. If, though, I want a £1.37 bet on a golf tournament which I have spent six hours expertly analysing, it seems I may soon be brought in for questioning by the Affordability Police.

With a proper debate, there should be enough sound judges in the House of Commons for the majority to realise this potential legislation is unworthy and would be counterproductive.

Let us pray our politicians see sense. Sign the petition, please.

Read these next:

'It could be catastrophic for the sport' - punters and racing urged to sign petition against affordability checks 

Five reasons you should sign the affordability checks petition 

Affordability checks: sign the petition now 

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Published on 10 November 2023inSteve Palmer

Last updated 15:02, 10 November 2023