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DCMS minister Lucy Frazer has defended the government’s approach to affordability checks as industry criticism mounts. 

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In an op-ed in the Racing Post, which has been highly critical of the proposals on affordability checks, Frazer said the checks will be frictionless, apply only to “the very highest” spenders and would not apply on the racetrack or in betting shops.  

While the minister warned against pre-empting the Gambling Commission’s consultation on the measure, she said the government was committed in standing by these promises. 

“I can assure Racing Post readers we will never roll out the proposed checks until we are certain they do what they say on the tin,” she said. 

Also dubbed financial vulnerability checks, affordability checks are considered to be among the most controversial provisions of April’s Gambling Act white paper

Critics include gambling industry heavyweights, horse racing executives and members of parliament.

Anti-affordability checks petition launched 

A 1 November petition calling for the government to “abandon the planned implementation of affordability checks” has reached 38,000 signatures as of Friday morning.

Introduced by Jockey Club CEO Nevin Truesdale, the petition has a 1 May deadline to hit 100,000 signatures. If this takes place, then the petition must legally be considered for debate in parliament. 

Frazer, however, argued the current industry system of spotting unaffordable losses is neither beneficial to punters or business.  

She argued current checks “are often inconsistent, ad hoc and can be unnecessarily onerous, with customers having to manually provide reams of personal data to navigate a maze of different tick-boxes”.

She added: “This government is not in the business of telling people how they can and can’t spend their money.

“But we know, for some, gambling leads to a dangerous cycle of addiction that can feel impossible to escape. We have a duty of care to those at the greatest risk of devastating and life-changing financial losses.”

The debate around affordability checks has heated up in recent months. 

In a September speech, Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes blasted “deliberate misinformation designed to muddy the waters of debate and to torpedo the implementation of government policy”.

The exact details of what these checks will look like in practice is not settled. 

The Commission received more than 3,000 consultation responses from interested parties for their summer tranche of consultations, of which affordability checks was included. 

The exact workings of the measures will depend to a great extent on the Commission’s published response to the affordability checks consultation. 

Earlier this week, UK-licensed operator Kindred Group said it was broadly in favour of affordability checks, but only if they are “truly frictionless” for the end user.

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