Gambling Commission to review the licences of seven bookmakers following underage betting at Ascot

United Kingdom

On 30 July 2019, the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) announced that seven unnamed bookmakers would have their licences to offer gambling reviewed, after they each allowed a 16-year old to place a bet at on-course betting stands at Royal Ascot in June.

Officers from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, supported by the Commission and Trading Standards, carried out age verification test purchasing on 17 on-course bookmakers at Ascot. Of these, seven allowed a 16-year old to place a £5 bet. This comes against a backdrop of the on-course sector historically failing age verification exercises and Think 21 testing. Over the past four years, the on-course sector has a pass rate of around 35% for Think 21 testing. This is considerably lower than in other gambling and age restricted products.

Racecourse bookmakers have had repeated warnings from the regulator that they need to improve their age verification procedures following previous tests at race meetings yet these seven operators now face regulatory action from the Commission. The sanctions available to the Commission include a warning, conditions being placed on a licence, a financial penalty and suspending or revoking licences. Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers director Robin Grossmith said he hoped the action by the Gambling Commission would act as a "wake-up call" for on-course firms.

Richard Watson, Executive Director of the Commission, said: “These licence reviews show how strongly we feel about underage gambling.” Mr Watson added: “We welcome the positive initiative by the local authority and the racecourse to raise standards in the gambling industry.”

Article co-authored by Trainee Solicitor Emelia Hunt.