The GCF summarise and analyse the Westminster affordability debate

What are Harms markers and are they working?

One hundred signatories later and racing got its 3 hour debate in Parliament. The Jockey Club and Arena did a good job getting MPs out with around 20 supporters in the room, this compared to the half a dozen usual suspects on the anti side. Philip Davies and Conor McGinn were the top performers, primarily because they have a lifelong interest in the game and actually get it. There were well briefed supporters such as Matt Hancock and George Freeman who spoke well. Those presenting the anti Gambling case were Carolyn Harris (who came out with the line ‘just because we don’t have all the answers now does not mean we should not do anything’), Paul Blomfield who repeated the debunked statistic that there are 400 suicides a year due to problem gambling, and went on to say the argument of the potential black market consequences were ‘the last refuge of rogues’.

Iain Duncan Smith offered some slight nuance, seemingly not having a problem with land and cash based bets, but purely with FOBTs and the online bookmakers. Aside from that the only further anti speeches came from two rambling Scottish MPs.

Arguably the most important speech was the Labour Shadow Minister. With an autumn election looming, there is a strong chance that the present government will put much of this in the long grass so it will be left to Labour to pick up. The Shadow Minister has already shown a willingness to speak to Racing and punters with the GCF joining a roundtable event last week.

She did raise a point that is getting lost in all this which was ‘it is not clear what intervention will take place as a result of these checks.’ Realistically the punter gets the funds back and moves to another operator or the black market but we’ve heard little from Government or the Gambling Commission on it.

The Minister’s pre prepared speech started with using the Gamble Aware survey data that 3 out of 5 people support affordability checks. Considering only half of people gamble then that’s no doubt made up of a majority who literally have no idea what they are talking about. There was lots of talk about the work the Gambling Commission were doing. One interesting point was the Gambling Commission have confirmed it will not require gambling businesses to consider personal details such as job title and postcode, contrary to what Tim Miller told the DCMS select committee. The ICO writing to us stating they disallow wealth screening is something I am sure had nothing to do with this.

So are we any further forward, well one of the most interesting contributions came from George Freeman who talked about how the UK is an AI powerhouse, and the merits of analysing addictive behaviour. Like the GCF, he believes there is an opportunity for the use of technology. As for affordability, there was no convincing case put forward, and the antis in the debate had to resort to debunked statistics and dubious claims. Yet the Government depressingly press on.

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