Lord David Lipsey, serving as the Chair for Premier Greyhound Racing, recently voiced his concerns regarding the Gambling Commission’s latest affordability proposals and its consequences on greyhound racing.
He shared, “Public debate has mainly spotlighted the implications of these proposals for horse racing, overlooking its impact on greyhound racing, Britain’s fifth largest spectator sport.”
Elaborating on the backdrop, Lord Lipsey explained that the greyhound racing industry benefits from a voluntary levy imposed on bookmakers. The British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF), helmed by seasoned bookmaker Joe Scanlon, collects this levy. This fund’s principal focus is the welfare of active and retired greyhounds, a task undertaken by the sport’s governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). Their “A Good Life for Every Greyhound” doctrine emphasizes the importance of greyhound welfare.
He proudly remarked on the progress made in greyhound welfare, noting the drastic increase in the percentage of dogs rehomed post-racing – from one in six during his tenure as the chair in the 2000s to an impressive 95% today.
However, he also highlighted the stagnation in the voluntary levy’s collection. Despite a temporary boost in 2019/20 after the levy’s extension to cover international bets on greyhounds, funds have since declined. Efforts by GBGB to persuade bookmakers to increase their contributions have been met with reluctance.
Addressing the Gambling Commission’s affordability crackdown, Lord Lipsey indicated that while he doesn’t have independent evidence, he believes that stringent affordability checks could dissuade key punters from betting on greyhounds. Drawing from personal experience, he recounted the cumbersome process he underwent with his bookmaker due to his status as a ‘politically exposed person’, a result of the Gambling Commission’s directives.
Contrary to assurances from ministers on smooth affordability checks, the Gambling Commission’s consultation paper admits the potential for intrusive checks on around 2/3% of punters, likely affecting high rollers.
Lord Lipsey warned that if the proposed checks deter these punters, it might not only reduce the levy’s yield but also discourage bookmakers from contributing, especially if their profits dwindle due to the new affordability regulations.
Concluding his memorandum, Lord Lipsey expressed his worries, “The advancements achieved over the past two decades risk being negated. The repercussions might entail unacceptable dog treatment, neglected tracks, and absent vets. If affordability checks deplete the funds crucial for welfare, these bleak scenarios could become our reality.”