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Gambling minister Stewart Andrew (pictured) said it was too late to change course on affordability checks, despite strong opposition within parliament.

Affordability checks are a measure proposed as part of the UK’s slate of gaming reforms that would impose financial checks on consumers that breach certain thresholds to ensure they can afford their gambling spend.

The proposal is often considered the most controversial of the government’s proposed reforms, amid fears that harder versions of the proposed checks would see punters move over to the black market.

Following a petition launched by Jockey Club CEO Nevin Truesdale that received 100,000 signatures, the UK parliament was required by law to debate the issue.

Last night (26 Feb), MPs representing a range of issues gathered to argue for the full three hours allotted for the debate.

MPs representing constituencies with race courses dominated the opposition to the measures.

In general, the racing industry has led the opposition to the checks due to the sector being dependent on betting for funding. It is also well represented politically.

Common arguments levied by MPs were that the checks would damage the racing sector and boost unlicensed operators, or that they have been set at too low a threshold and would do little to combat problem gambling.

On the other side of the debate, MPs highlighted the destructiveness of problem gambling and argued they would work to enable early interventions to prevent it.  

Andrew doubles down on affordability checks

Ultimately, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for sport, gambling and civil society, defended the checks to MPs, arguing they would be a “significant improvement” from the ad-hoc, inconsistent checks currently implemented by gambling operators.

This argument faced criticism from Melanie Ellis, partner at Northridge LLP, who highlighted the current situation was a result of the Gambling Commission’s own policy.

“A few speakers mentioned the fact that gambling operators are already carrying out affordability checks, due to them knowing what was coming down the line,” she said on LinkedIn.  

“Frustratingly, none mentioned that they are also doing them because the Gambling Commission fines, or removes licences from, those who do not.”

Andrew also pointed to the Commission’s recent update that it would be launching a pilot for enhanced checks as proof the government was taking seriously the criticism levied against the checks.

In the interim period before implementation, Andrew said the Gambling Commission was committed to improving the current system.

As such, he revealed the regulator was working on an industry-led code to smooth the transition. He added the Commission intended to release its full consultation response to affordability checks “soon”.

“I hope that we’ll be able to report on an agreement that may come as soon as possible so that customers can have more clarity of what can be expected,” he added.

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