1.50 Newbury - Friday
Horse Racing analyst Will Smith has had a good look at all this weekend's ante-post markets, and provides a 7/1 EW selection in the Grade 2 novices' chase at Newbury on Friday.
A recent survey conducted by YovGov has concluded that sports punters are in favour of free bets and other promotions that are often offered by betting companies and fear bettors could stray to unregulated black-market betting sites should they be removed.
The 2023 Cheltenham Festival has concluded and it is estimated that over £1 billion was wagered across the 28 races. Many online bookmakers change their welcome offers during the time of the festival and in most cases, in an unfavourable way for the customers, with the aim of reducing the number of bonus abusers. However, we still saw several bookies offering money-back specials, enhanced odds, extra places and free bet offers in a bid to entice punters to bet with them over their competitors.
Free bets and other bookie promotions have often been seen as win-win for both the punter and the bookie. The punter gets something for free, whether it be a free bet, a chance of a refund or bigger prices, and the bookie gets a new customer or an existing customer who will bet with them again. However, recently these types of promotions have undergone scrutiny as safer gambling organisations continue to put measures in place to reduce the number of problem gamblers.
Over the past few years we have seen several changes in the online betting industry with regulations put in place by the UK Gambling Commission to make online gambling safer. Some of these changes include bookies requiring to verify the identity and age of players within a shorter timeframe, customer affordability checks, the requirement of safer gambling tools such as deposit limits, reality checks and exclusion options, along with the removal of quick spins and bonus buys from online slot games.
There are over 53 million adults in the UK and around 22.5 million of those gamble at least once each month. This includes placing a sports bet, playing casino games, buying a lottery ticket or playing bingo. This shows that gambling is a common activity amongst UK residents which makes it vitally important that it remains regulated and safe.
The UK Gambling Commission states that 0.2% of adults within the UK are problem gamblers. That’s around 106,000 people. This number has been reduced from 0.3% (around 159,000 people) from the previous year.
Although adding additional regulations and restrictions such as the removal of free bets and promotions may seem like a positive move towards reducing the number of problem gamblers within the UK, there are concerns that should too many of them be actioned, it could drive punters away from the regulated market and encourage them to bet with overseas companies.
The UK Gambling Commission is a non-departmental public body that regulates commercial gambling in the UK and was established under the Gambling Act 2005. Its main responsibilities include ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling, and preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder. The Commission also issues operating licenses to gambling operators and has the power to impose fines and revoke licenses if operators do not comply with its regulations. Additionally, the Commission provides advice to the government on gambling-related issues and works with law enforcement agencies to combat illegal gambling.
The regulated UK betting and gaming industry generates around 110,000 jobs within the UK. It also contributes £4.2bn in tax which is used for frontline services from the £7.1bn that it generates for the economy.
Black market betting companies, which are not regulated by the UK Gambling Commission, do not contribute to the economy and punters who bet with these companies are not protected by the UKGC should there be disputes focussed around withheld funds, unfair gameplay, safer gambling measures and more.
From the YouGov survey, 54% of participants thought that banning free bets and promotions would encourage more punters to use black market gambling sites. These opinions aren’t unfounded given that the number of users at unregulated black market betting sites has risen from 210,000 to 460,000 in recent years with billions of pounds wagered during that time. A recent RacingTV survey also found that 15% of participants either had used or knows someone who has used an unregulated bookmaker.
There’s no doubt that having a regulated gambling industry provides several benefits. Billions of pounds is generated in tax to go towards vital frontline services, hundreds of thousands of jobs are created for the UK public and punters should be somewhat reassured that licenced betting companies are operating above board given the legal requirements imposed by the UKGC.
However, a good point has been made by the YouGov survey participants that restrictions could go too far and push people away from the regulated market and to unsafe betting sites where they receive no protection.
Gambling has been a pastime in the UK for centuries and we don’t expect it to go anywhere anytime soon. However, the landscape is continuously changing whether it be with the operators themselves or the restrictions and regulations imposed by the Gambling Commission. As for free bets and promotions, for now they remain but what the future holds is in many ways uncertain.