It was uplifting yesterday to get a mild day with the sun beaming down but it did not last for long, the heavens have opened this morning and the rain has lashed down. Not an ideal situation for the inhabitants of any of the yards in Newmarket, short mild spells followed by the wet and then snow and some freezing temperatures on the horizon. This is our fair land that is the United Kingdom however and it is par for the course.
We have a quiet month ahead, London Eye runs this evening and we are crossing our fingers a bit of schooling may spark him up a little. It does not look a deep race but he has shown no enthusiasm for his racing on the track thus far and so it is very much a watch and see brief. If he disappoints tonight then we may turn to blinkers. Capla Crusader and Global Warning are pencilled in to run in the middle of the month, both back to the course and distance they have won over but the handicapper has hiked them up the weights, Global Warning looks to have been harshly done by and it will be interesting to see how he copes with a mark of 84.
All the debate currently is about affordability checks for gamblers. It will undoubtedly be a huge kick in the teeth for the industry if it goes ahead, the only people who may be happy are the on course bookmakers as it would surely increase their turnover, there is no way any checks could be enforced or implemented if someone comes up with four £50 notes and asks for £100 each way on their fancy. So you would surely see more liquidity back in the ring and a few extra punters going racing to the badly attended meetings. Where racing has badly messed up is allowing our funding to be linked to FOBTs, it seemed like a great deal linking media rights to the number of licenced bookmaker shops, especially as the number of bookmakers opening was on the rise but essentially we were like a hardware shop selling knives thinking people were more interested in cooking, when in fact knife crime was going through the roof.
Anyone who has had an identity check with a bookmaker knows how cumbersome it is to satisfy and if affordability checks come in at a level as low as £100 a month, then the racing industry in this country will shrink significantly. It needs to shrink a little anyway and undoubtedly we will lose a few racecourses but the affordability checks at a low level would be a hammer blow. Banning all betting on credit cards would be a good start, then people will find it harder to get into serious debt. Having races jump off every 5 minutes and then suggesting racing is a game of skill, which it is, does the industry no good, so that needs to be addressed to show we are a responsible industry. Give the punters time to study a little between races at worst and also allow people to enjoy the build up to a race. As a lot of people have mentioned the Super Saturday when the John Smith’s Cup at York does not even get much of a preview in the minutes before the race is ridiculous. Races go off late etc but in a small country such as the UK there should not be more than three meetings on an afternoon and three in an evening on any day. Easter and Bank Holidays being the exception.
The argument that the unregulated bookmaking industry would flourish is a sound one. If the affordability checks come in then should people be able to get credit with stores to run up debt. I know more people who have got into thousands of pounds worth of debt with store credit than with gambling. Where is the line drawn? There is more help on offer to people in gambling strife than ever before, I am all for credit cards being banned for gambling purposes and maybe cash withdrawals should be reduced to £200, cash is becoming more and more obsolete anyway. Once people get into debt they cannot repay, that is when the most harm is done, so the gambling commission should be looking at as many ways possible to stop that happening, whilst not smashing the horse racing industry to pieces.