These are hopelessly uncertain times for on-course bookmakers.
UK racing may return at some point in June, with Ireland following a few weeks later, but that will resolutely be behind closed doors without any punters on site.
And so that means that the bookies will be forced to watch on from home like the rest of us.
For some, bookmaking offers a second income or could even be considered a hobby, but for many in the betting ring this is their full-time, sole source of money.
For seven of those individuals, there was at least some good news this week after it was revealed that those who had been fined for accepting bets from an underage punter in a test would no longer have to pay the penalty.
It was a move welcomed by Robin Grossmith, the director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, who believes the Commission have seen sense following their ‘heavy handed’ decision:
“We’re very pleased they took the opportunity of reviewing it. Having had the opportunity to hear the mitigation pleas from those bookmakers, they have been able to reassess the situation.
“Perhaps they felt they were too heavy-handed to start with, and have come to a decision which is more realistic given the times we are in.”
Meanwhile Chris Hudson, the president of the British Racecourse Bookmakers Association, confirmed he wanted bookies to work closer with the Commission to prevent a repeat when racing is open to the public once more.
“We will again attempt to reach out to the Gambling Commission officers responsible to better understand how we can work more closely together, as protecting the young and vulnerable is a key objective of the Gambling Act and is supported by all racecourse bookmakers,” Hudson said.
A Royal Fudge Up
The incident unravelled at Royal Ascot in June 2019, in a planned testing effort overseen by the UK Gambling Commission in conjunction with officers from the Trading Standards departments of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Seven of the seventeen bookmakers approached were found to have accepted wagers from the 16-year-old – they were subsequently heavily fined by the Commission, with the sum charged being the equivalent of 2.5% of their gross gambling yield (revenue after winnings have been paid).
But now, the regulator has had a change of heart in the wake of the ‘exceptional challenges’ that those in the industry are currently facing, and the fines have been rescinded. Instead, the guilty parties have been handed ‘advice to conduct’ letters, warning them of the consequences of breaching the underage gambling laws in the future.
A statement from the UK Gambling Commission read:
“Protecting children and young people from gambling harm is a priority for the commission.
“Due to the impact of the exceptional commercial challenges and current uncertainty for on-course bookmakers, we have taken the decision to review the initial sanctions placed on these seven operators.
“We will continue to monitor their standards very closely. If future failings are identified we will not hesitate to take action.”