Underage UK Lad Could Cost Bookies £millions8 months ago
British bookmakers have lashed out at a massive fine levied by the UKGC – amounting to 2.5% of their gross annual profits - for allowing a 16-year old to place bets at Royal Ascot last year.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission hit seven on-course bookies with the onerous penalties, one of them reportedly facing a £7,600 fine for accepting a £5 bet from the underage teen.
The fines have been described as “scary” and “absolutely horrendous”, with the industry “shell-shocked” at the severity of them.
Mick Williams, representing the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, said this week:
“You’d think there’d be a procedure in place: a warning for the first offence, a fine for the second and then at some stage a possible suspension of your licence. But there’s none of that.”
The legal age for placing a bet on horseracing is 18, and bookmakers are required by law to ask for identification, which apparently wasn’t carried in the seven cases out of the seventeen ‘trials’ at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting.
A previous investigation, in 2014, had seen zero out of 20 on-course bookies asking for identification, described at the time as “a pretty poor result” by then UKGC Director, Matthew Hill.
He added back then:
“The industry must do better or operators are likely to find themselves facing formal sanctions.”
That seems to have been taken to an extreme with the recent fines, but industry insiders have accused the Commission of hitting soft targets.
Robin Grossmith, also of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, told the Guardian newspaper:
“We think the penalties are absolutely horrendous”, adding: “Are you going to fine William Hill 2.5% of gross? That would be tens of millions of pounds. This is a misdemeanour, of course, and none of those involved have denied it, but it’s Royal Ascot, you’re flat-out busy. For that fiver taken, one of these men is looking at a fine of £7,600. We’re quite shell-shocked by this.”
None of the bookmakers have been named, and have until next week to launch a challenge to the UKGC decision.
The UKGC themselves would not comment specifically on the cases, but the Guardian reported a statement the Commission issued last year that read:
“Every single gambling business must protect children from gambling but the on-course bookmakers’ results have remained unacceptable.”
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