UK Jockey Club criticized for deal with online casino Playtech

Posted: February 4, 2022, 11:58 a.m.

Last update: February 4, 2022, 2:03 a.m.

The UK Jockey Club’s decision to partner with online casino software giant Playtech has been criticized by some in the racing industry as “short-sighted”. The race post reports.

Jockey club
Riders line up for the Grand National at Aintree, above. Aintree is one of several historic racecourses owned by the Jockey Club. (Picture: sky sports)

Under the terms of the deal, Playtech will produce a range of content inspired by the races and racetracks owned by the venerable 270-year-old institution. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, covers casino, live casino, poker, virtual sports and bingo.

Formerly the governing body for horse racing in Britain, the Jockey Club is now the largest trade organization in the industry. It owns 15 of the UK’s historic racecourses, including Aintree, Cheltenham and Epsom Downs.

Horse betting difference

But critics say the Playtech partnership undermines the argument that betting on horses should be treated differently from other forms of gambling, such as casino games, in upcoming government reforms.

The industry is eager to emphasize the ‘skill-based’ element of horse betting in the hope that such bets will be exempted from heightened regulatory controls. It found higher rates of compulsive gambling among customers of online casinos than among horse bettors.

The government has pledged to reform the UK Gambling Act 2005, which has created one of the most permissive regulated online gambling markets in the world.

One proposal is to introduce “affordability checks” for customers who lose more than £100 ($132) over a period of several weeks. This would mean that customers would be required to provide operators with information about their monthly income and expenses to continue playing.

The racing industry has said it could cost the already cash-strapped sport £60m ($79m) a year in revenue from betting companies. This is because recreational players would be deterred from betting by the intrusive controls.

“Bad Timing”

The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) is a body set up with the help of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to represent the interests of those who bet on British horse racing. In a statement this week, it implied that the Jockey Club was sleeping with the enemy.

As the white paper on the gambling law review has not yet been published, this announcement seems out of time,” HBF said. “The high street bookmakers have reinvented themselves as online casinos and have knowingly confused horse betting with gambling.

In response to criticism, the Jockey Club explained that the Playtech deal was aimed at reaching new audiences and creating new revenue streams for the sport. It’s not about how the game is regulated, he said.