The recently announced punishments meted out by the UK Gambling Commission to 7 on-course bookmakers at Royal Ascot for failing a test for underage betting raised some issues in the gambling industry and spurred some rage from bookmakers’ organizations that they have not been treated fairly.
Underage Gambling is Unacceptable
During an enforcement action by the UKGC at Royal Ascot last summer, 7 out of all 17 on-course bookmakers took a £5 bet from a 16 year-old without asking for an ID, effectively letting an underage person as the rule is 18 or above to place a bet, a result slightly better than the one from a previous similar test in 2014, where all 20 bookies failed.
“Every single gambling business must protect children from gambling but the on-course bookmakers’ results have remained unacceptable”, Richard Watson, Executive Director, UKGC
Obviously disappointed by the slow progress in the efforts of the industry to prevent underage gambling occurrence, the UK Gambling Commission, having considered for seven months the type and extent of the punishment that needs to be meted out, has come up with the decision to make the perpetrators pay what amounts to 2.5% of their gross profit for an entire year, leaving them “shell-shocked” at the “absolutely horrendous” severity of the penalty imposed.
Choosing an Easy Target for Setting an Example
The disproportionate measure raises some serious questions, though, and one of them is exactly why the UKGC has picked racecourse bookmakers for that enforcement action, implying that the on-course bookies are really easy targets especially during very busy festival times, but gambling addiction requires regular basis actions that racecourse activities do not provide for.
While some racecourse bookmakers association officials argue that there should be a specific procedure for such cases that would include a warning on the first occasion, a fine on the second and after that considering such severe measures, others even suggesting that serving alcohol to underage people is a bigger problem than accepting a bet from a 16-year-old, the former clearly neglecting that, to a certain extent, this is a second occurrence, while the latter is a glaringly obvious attempt to divert the public attention away from the issue and towards an area the Gambling Commission has nothing to do with.
Questioning UKGC Priorities
One betting company’s CEO, Colossus Bets, goes even further, calling out the hypocrisy behind the fact that under 18s are legally allowed to buy Lotto scratch cards, products specifically designed to be addictive and available in 44,000 outlets, pointing out that the problem at Royal Ascot and in general at race courses is hardly the one that needs that much focus and determination from the gambling regulatory body.
The period for submitting appeals against the appropriateness of the punishment measure is over now but there is no official information on any further developments.