Trade body statement

UK: BGC calls on Govt. to address punters' concerns ahead of Grand National, Gambling Review

Reading time 3:42 min

As millions of bettors are set to return to bookies for the first time in three years to wager on the Grand National horse racing competition, the Betting and Gaming Council has warned Ministers “not to spoil the enjoyment of punters or ignore the tens of thousands of jobs” supported by the regulated betting and gaming industry in the government’s upcoming Gambling Review.

The BGC’s warning comes as punters regain the opportunity to bet on the Grand National in person for the first time in three years next Saturday, April 9, the biggest betting day of the year for the UK industry. The horse race, held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England, is the most valuable jump race in Europe and a landmark event for British culture.

However, due to the Covid pandemic, betting shops on hard-pressed high streets across the nation were closed during the Grand National in 2021, while in 2020, the Grand National took the form of a virtual race. This event was “hugely successful in its own right,” claims the BGC, with betting companies raising €2.9 million ($3.2 million) for NHS Charities Together.

But despite this achievement, nothing beats in-person betting. As shops are once again open, industry experts predict a bumper year for the “nation’s punt.” According to industry research conducted by the Betting and Gaming Council, 13 million people in the UK will place a bet on the Grand National this Saturday.

Additionally, the industry body for UK betting and gaming expects approximately €250 million ($274.4 million) will be staked on the main event, which equates to around 2.5% of all annual horse racing stakes. An estimated half a billion will watch the Grand National from 140 different countries, and millions will be placing a bet for the first time this year, the BGC says.

Out of all bets, half of them are expected to be placed in shops -around 1,000 bets per shop-. But the BGC says the Grand National will also be good news for the Treasury, which will net €3 million ($3.3 million) in tax revenues. The event will also generate about €2 million ($2.2 million) in horse racing levy to support the sport.

However, this year’s race at Aintree, Liverpool, which was first run in 1839, “is being staged amid the biggest shake-up of the regulated betting and gaming industry in a generation which could transform the way the nation enjoys the Grand National by next year,” the industry body warns.

The BGC warns that the anti-gambling lobby “has repeatedly called for intrusive affordability checks and a ban on promotions and offers,” which the trade body believes would undermine the consumer experience and erode competition in the industry. The BGC is urging Ministers “to resist” these suggested measures.

Millions of us are going to come together this weekend, from all walks of life, to have a bet on the Grand National. It is the nation’s punt, the one time many go and place a bet in their local bookies and enjoy the thrill of horse racing with friends and family,” said Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher.

However, while Dugher celebrated bookies being once again open on high streets, he warned there could be “a sting in the tail” next year “if anti-gambling prohibitionists get their way.” According to the executive, research shows punters would react “badly” to being asked to submit to instructive affordability checks, or curbs on their consumer experience, “with any ban on promotions.”

“One study found 95% of punters would not share bank details in order to place a bet – while 86% of punters feared checks like this would drive gambling underground,” said Dugher. “We want to find workable solutions that protect vulnerable players, but blanket affordability checks would affect millions of punters, drive many to the black market, and suck up to £100 million ($131 million) out of horseracing, jeopardizing jobs and local economies.”

With the nation’s eyes on horse racing and betting this weekend, the BGC boss asked the Government “to recognize the popularity of betting” and “its unique place in our national culture.” But most importantly, he called on the Government to “ensure they address punters' concerns and protect jobs” in the upcoming White Paper.

The BGC’s demands come as the Government prepares for the release of a White Paper setting out a proposed review of the UK’s Gambling Act. The White Paper is expected in the coming weeks and has led to much debate in the meantime.

The trade body, which represents the UK’s regulated betting and gaming industry, has repeatedly warned in anticipation of the White Paper against changes which could threaten “the industry’s contribution to the economy, sport and ongoing work to promote safer gaming.”

Betting shops support 46,000 jobs on the UK’s hard-pressed high streets, contributing £1 billion ($1.3 billion) a year in tax to the Treasury and another £60 million ($78.6 million) in business rates to local councils, the BGC claims.

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