UK Government interference in the world of betting seems relentless. It seems that every month, the UK Government wants to explore new avenues for safeguarding bettors’ rights, or at least, that’s what is claimed. However, not all punters feel the same way. It isn’t just the bookmakers who are unimpressed with the meddling; a majority of horse racing fans are chomping at the bit to tell the authorities what they think. This week, they’ve done just that following a YouGov poll for the Betting and Gambling Council.
The poll showcased that most betting fans don’t want free bets banned. The findings have the backing of punters and sportsbooks alike. Leading UK & Irish Bookmaker, BoyleSports sponsors a lot of major horse racing festivals, and dozens of other high street bookies feel the same way. What does this mean for the future of betting? Let’s find out.
First up, the BGC poll is not supposed to be binding, and it is only a barometer used to test the water and gauge what bettors really believe. However, sometimes the powers that be seldom listen to bettors. After all, there was no majority for the banning of credit card deposits at bookmakers, but that went ahead. The more recent results are pretty straightforward to understand, however.
When asked whether they believed free bets should be banned (as part of the UK Government’s white paper on gambling), 69% of bettors believe that free bets should be permitted, and 63% said that they are a key part of their strategy when betting. Despite pandering to the government from campaigners, horse racing bettors have spoken. They do not agree with campaigners that free bets encourage problem gambling.
Speaking on the findings, BGC leader Michael Dugher commented that promos and offers were an integral part of any industry, including the gambling one. They reportedly bring in £4.4 billion in treasury tax. He went on to say that there would be an outcry in supermarkets if similar blanket bans were introduced, emphasising his point on promotions and offers being widespread across many industries. Problem gambling is believed to affect less than 0.2% of the population, with the overwhelming majority of horse racing fans betting responsibly. We should stress that these figures represent the horse racing community only, not the general online gambling sector.
Despite the poll results, the government seems intent on continuing to “review” the gambling industry. They might want to think twice after the poll showed that over 28% of bettors would consider joining black market (offshore) betting sites if free bets were banned. This would result in a loss of over a quarter of revenue for the UK Government’s tax coffers. Free bets alone are subject to a £5 million levy which would immediately disappear.
In fiery rebuke, Dugher commented that while the BGC supports an evidence-based approach to gambling reforms that protect the minority of problem gamblers, “ministers shouldn’t be sticking their nose” into the affairs of gamblers who gamble responsibly, adding that it isn’t the government’s responsibility to determine how the average horse racing fan should spend their money.
The nanny state has been firmly told, it would appear.