Public Heavily Opposed to Affordability Checks in Gambling Industry Regulus FOI Reveals

In a revealing turn of events, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Regulus Partners has uncovered substantial public opposition to affordability checks within the gambling sector. This data was shared with the Racing Post, shedding light on a contentious issue that has been under wraps until now.

Back in February 2021, approximately 12,000 individuals participated in a short survey concerning affordability checks. However, the Gambling Commission (GC) only published a limited summary of these results when it released its response to a consultation in May 2021. The recently disclosed data highlights a clear resistance among the public towards financial risk checks imposed by gambling companies.

The survey results reveal a striking reluctance from the participants: a mere 14% of punters expressed willingness to disclose financial information when requested by a gambling company. A significant 41.8% of respondents stated their discomfort with sharing personal financial details, while 22.5% indicated that they would cease betting with that company and seek alternatives that do not require such disclosures.

The GC has so far not provided a direct response to the Racing Post’s inquiries regarding the absence of a more comprehensive revelation of these results at the time.

Further examination of the survey’s demographics reveals that nearly 82% of the 12,000 respondents reported gambling twice or more per week. Additionally, almost 92% admitted to having placed bets online in the four weeks preceding the survey. While there was a solid consensus on the necessity for operator intervention when a player appears to be at-risk, with 75% of respondents supporting such measures, the survey distinctly indicates that people do not believe gambling operators should be responsible for assessing the affordability of individual players’ gambling habits. A substantial 77.6% of respondents argued against businesses being required to evaluate gambling affordability for their customers.

Among the 77.6% who opposed, 64.4% cited individual freedom as their primary concern, while 61.4% highlighted privacy concerns as a significant factor in their opposition. When asked about their comfort levels regarding companies accessing financial information for affordability checks, almost two-thirds (66.3%) stated they would feel uncomfortable or very uncomfortable. Only a slender 8.

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.6% disclosed that they would feel very comfortable sharing such information.

The resistance further crystallized when the respondents were asked what measures could make them more comfortable with sharing their financial data. A significant 54.3% of participants firmly stated that they would never disclose that level of personal information, highlighting a deep-rooted unease surrounding data sharing.

The initial survey on affordability checks was part of a broader consultation as the GC aimed to identify effective methods to safeguard vulnerable players from gambling-related harms. Despite the GC’s initial promise to disclose the full survey results along with its 2023 consultation responses, only a limited summary was released. Instead, these findings were absorbed into the government’s review of the Gambling Act and its subsequent white paper.

Regulus’s FOI request had earlier been dismissed on grounds of insufficient “outstanding public interest,” as noted by the Racing Post. This recent release of information, however, adds a crucial dimension to the ongoing debate about the impact and acceptance of affordability checks.

The GC has faced criticism in the past for its perceived manipulation of statistics. In a 2023 interview with iGB, industry expert David Brown lambasted the GC for misrepresenting affordability check statistics within the broader gambling reform discourse, accusing both sides of the debate of using data to push their agendas.

April 2023 marked a landmark moment with the release of the Gambling Act review white paper, which introduced several regulatory reforms. While measures like stake limits and a statutory levy received a mixed reception, affordability checks have emerged as a significant point of contention.

GC Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes acknowledged that affordability checks were a predominant concern in the white paper consultations, particularly opposed within the horseracing sector. Notably, Jockey Club Chief Executive Nevin Truesdale initiated a petition in November against financial risk checks, amassing 100,000 signatures in under a month and sparking a parliamentary debate.

Despite the palpable resistance, plans for affordability checks are moving forward. A six-month pilot for “frictionless” affordability checks is set to commence in August 2023 and continue into February 2025. GC Executive Director Tim Miller announced that these checks would utilize open-source data, avoiding reliance on credit reference agencies.

Moreover, a two-round pilot for “light touch” financial risk checks will be launched, triggered when net deposits reach £500. This first phase will start on August 30, with a second phase beginning in February 2025, where the check threshold will be triggered by £150 in net deposits.

“We must strike the right balance between protecting individuals from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm and respecting the freedom of adults to engage in an activity that the vast majority participate in without issues,” stated GC CEO Andrew Rhodes at the time.

As the debate on affordability checks continues, it is clear that the public’s discomfort and opposition will remain a critical factor in shaping future regulatory measures in the gambling industry.