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Goodwood Chief Speaks Out Over Affordability Checks

Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth believes the impact of affordability checks has been underestimated and said he had never been more concerned for the health of the sport.

Waterworth said signs of falling betting turnover had created uncertainty around media rights revenues and made making decisions about prize-money levels for next year more challenging than ever.

Goodwood is the second big independent course to voice such fears after York’s chief executive William Derby said that in its current form, the UK gambling review white paper would have a major impact on the money flowing into British racing.

“We’re doing our budget at the moment and it’s difficult to know at what level to set the media rights revenues for next year,” said Waterworth. “That’s the revenue stream that drives prize-money decisions.

“I can’t see how you can possibly assume growth for next year. The turnover numbers didn’t look particularly good for July and August. It’s a worry and I can’t see how turnover will suddenly turn around.”

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A recent Racing Post investigation published this week questioned the calculations employed in the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport’s impact assessment on racing’s finances and concluded the cost to the sport could be three times the figure quoted. The range of lost revenue to the sport in the first year of implementation provided alongside the white paper ranged from £8.6 million to £14.9 million.

Gross gambling yield on racing is heavily reliant on high-staking punters and those over the age of 55, two groups that are likely to be disproportionately affected by the more intrusive levels of affordability checks proposed by the government and the Gambling Commission. 

“We don’t seem to have any clarity around affordability checks and the impact has probably been underestimated,” said Waterworth. “In addition to that you’ve got the cost of living crisis, and I’m not sure we’re getting the new punters in to replace those who are turning away from the sport due to affordability checks. 

“Everyone acknowledges we’ve got this issue and is doing their bit, but that’s only good if people are listening, which is my worry. Things need to change quickly. We’re reading a lot about owners giving up because of affordability checks and we can’t afford to lose them. I’ve been working in this game for 30 years and I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite as worried about it as I am at the minute. It’s a real threat.”

The Right To Bet online survey, a questionnaire designed to gauge the views of racing punters on the implementation of affordability checks, closes Monday. The BHA, Racing Post, At The Races, and Racing TV combined to create the survey. 

The Gambling Commission’s public consultation on a wide range of questions surrounding affordability checks closes Oct. 18.

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