Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
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Down Royal: The Ladbrokes Champion Chase, won this season by Frodo, is the track’s star race
Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
There are fears for the future of horse racing in Northern Ireland after affordability checks with a ‘trigger’ limit of £100 a month emerged in a draft gaming code of practice.
Downpatrick manager Richard Lyttle said he was concerned that the proposals could have “a significant impact on the viability of horse racing in Northern Ireland”, while the owner of the biggest retail chain in paris du nord, Gary Toal, told the Racing Post that his 45 stores would close. whether the proposed affordability checks become a reality.
The Gaming Code of Practice, which has been drafted by the Northern Ireland Communities Department and whose consultation process is due to end on Friday, proposes accessibility checks to be carried out if a customer spends beyond the minimum “trigger” limit. of £100 per month, and that operators “should refuse to accept payments in excess of the ‘trigger’ limit from any customer who chooses not to submit to an accessibility check beforehand and before the outcome is known”.
It also states that accessibility checks must take place at racetracks as well as betting shops, bingo clubs, arcades and traveling fairs.
The proposal comes in the context of the UK government’s ongoing gaming review and white paper which is expected to be published in the spring. UK racing fears that if intrusive accessibility controls are introduced they could lose more than £60million in revenue.
“We have serious concerns about the proposed codes”
The proposed code of practice has raised serious concerns with Lyttle, who said: “As one of two racecourses in Northern Ireland, we are of the view that the proposed draft code of practice has the potential to have a significant impact on the viability of horse racing in the North Ireland We have serious concerns about the proposed codes as currently drafted, both in terms of their complexity and their applicability.
“There is a very real potential that the economic effect the proposed codes will have on on-course and off-course bookmakers will consequently damage racetracks in this jurisdiction to the extent that they may not be viable.”
Toal, of Toals Bookmakers, expressed concern for his business and said he thought the proposals were unrealistic and impractical.
Toal said: “I think I speak for most northern bookmakers in saying we have no issues with the code of practice other than where we are with accessibility checks. If the figure is of £100 a month as proposed in the code of practice my shops should close and I would say the two racecourses here should also close.
“But there will be consultations about it and there will be a sensible and realistic debate about it.”
Ex-minister warns accessibility checks could drive bettors into the black market
Giving an example of the difficulties affordability checks would cause, he added: “I have a Paddy Power store, a BoyleSports store and a McLeans store within 200 yards of one of my stores. Can anyone start with a pound at McLeans and put that on a 9-1 shot that wins. He then goes to BoyleSports and puts that ten on another 9-1 shot and he wins too. He’s now a hundred pounds. Then he walks into my shop and he wants to put that hundred pounds on an even shot at Cheltenham I can’t take the bet off him because he has to prove to me he can afford it He has to tell me who his dependents are and what other debts he has. It’s so impractical.
“There may be a solution in ten years, but I don’t see it in the next five years.”
Conor O’Neill, chairman of the Association of Irish Racecourses, which includes Down Royal and Downpatrick, called the proposed gambling amendments for Northern Ireland “completely unworkable” and said the legislation would have a detrimental effect on the industry if implemented.
O’Neill said: “What is proposed here is utterly and utterly unworkable. I understand that the principles set out in this draft are quite positive in theory, but much of what is proposed for implementation at racetracks of our members is completely impractical. It just wouldn’t work.
“Take for example the affordability checks proposed in this project. They would require a full review of a client’s personal credit score, income, number of dependents and any loan commitments they have. This proposal suggests that this review would be triggered and full implementation required for any bettor placing a bet over £100.
“Can you imagine the implications of such a proposal? It’s just not practical.
“We are seriously concerned about the potential impact”
Revenue from betting shops in Northern Ireland is a major source of income for Down Royal and Downpatrick and proposed changes to current legislation are likely to have a significant impact on the viability of horse racing in the region.
Emma Meehan, chief executive of Down Royal, said: “Horse racing is in a unique sporting position, in that it and betting are interdependent with most of our betting-related revenue streams. These include the Horse Racing Fund, administered by DAERA. [department of agriculture, environment and rural affairs]and revenue from media rights agreements between racetracks as well as betting operators and sponsorship agreements.
“While we agree that the legislation needs to be modernized and developed to ensure it is fit for the modern age in an industry that has been transformed by the rise of mobile and online games, we are seriously concerned about the potential impact this proposed legislation will have on the future of horse racing in Northern Ireland, a sport which is still recovering from the financial implications of Covid-19.”
Learn more about this topic:
A ‘smarter way’ to tackle affordability than general checks, says top operator
Racing fans urged to contact MPs over ‘unintended consequences’ of gambling review
Ministers have warned the YouGov poll is a ‘red flag’ over potential gambling measures
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FIRST PUBLICATION AT 7:15 PM, MARCH 3, 2022