BGC says survey shows ‘Majority of voters oppose giving politicians power to limit betting spend’

UK industry body the Betting and Gaming Council says that a new poll reveals a majority of voters believe politicians should not set arbitrary limits on the amount they are able to bet.

The YouGov survey was carried out as the Gambling Commission continues its affordability consultation, amid calls for a £100 limit on the amount that punters can lose in a month.

The issue is also expected to be considered as part of the Government’s ongoing Gambling Review.

But according to the poll of 1,683 British adults, 51 per cent are opposed to limits set by politicians, compared to just 27 per cent who support them.

Critics have said that setting affordability limits could slash over £60 million pounds from the amount of money horseracing receives from the betting levy.

The YouGov poll – which was commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council – also found that 59 per cent of UK adults agree that “if there are too many limits placed on people to bet”, they will shift to the unlicensed and illegal black market, compared to 10 per cent who disagree.

A report by PwC last month revealed that the number of British punters using black market sites to place bets has increased from 210,000 to 460,000 in the past two years, while the amount staked with unlicensed operators had doubled from £1.4bn to £2.8bn.

Black market sites have none of the safeguards required in the regulated sector, such as ID and age verification checks, the ability to set deposit limits and safer gambling tools.

The BGC also commissioned a series of focus groups, which were mainly held so-called “Red Wall” seats across the Midlands and the north of England, to find out their views on betting and wider cultural issues.

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In all, 20 took place in Long Eaton, Mansfield, Dudley, Walsall, Warrington, Doncaster, Oldham, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Stoke, London, Richmond-on-Thames, Birmingham, Durham, Wakefield, Blackpool and St Helens between November and February.

Many of these areas were among the 50 seats across the North, Midlands and Wales which switched from Labour to the Conservatives in 2019, helping to hand Boris Johnson an 80-seat majority.

In a rebuke to the anti-gambling lobby, who accuse the industry of “normalising” gambling, they showed that betting is already a normal social and leisure pastime for millions of Brits.

They also found that voters in those seats are wary of post-Covid mission creep, with the state wanting to impose more control on how they live their lives.

Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “My view is that limits are good, which is why people betting are now strongly encouraged to set their own limits on how much they spend. Affordability checks are also a good thing. But technology enables betting companies to see where customers are starting to display what we call ‘markers of harm’. In this way, potential problem gamblers and others who may be more at risk could be subject to enhanced affordability checks.

“Such a move would potentially also have serious ramifications for horseracing in particular, which relies heavily on the money it receives from the betting levy.

“I hope politicians will also take heed of the findings and listen to voters in Northern and Midlands marginal seats – who will be key to the result of the next election – who are wary of being told by Westminster how to live their lives, especially in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

“The BGC fully supports the Gambling Review and we want to see big changes, but it’s important that ministers get those changes right.”