The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has removed fines that it originally imposed on bookmakers in a case of underage betting dating back to Royal Ascot.
The fines were imposed on seven Ascot racecourse bookmakers after they were found to have accepted bets made by an under-age test purchaser at the meeting. Bookmakers said that the fines were disproportionate, after the UKGC ordered them to pay 2.5% of their annual yield.
The UKGC, working with police and trading standards conducted test purchasing with the help of a 16-year-old at the Royal meeting last summer. The test purchaser placed a £5 bet with seven of the 17 bookmakers who were tested. All seven had to pay the fine, in one case, totalling £7,000.
The UKGC has now decided to cancel the fines, due to the challenges being faced by on-course bookmakers after the cancellation of racing during the ongoing pandemic. The bookmakers involved are set to be issued with warnings rather than fines.
Speaking about the decision, a UKGC spokesperson explained the rationale for the change of punishment, noting that they would continue to closely monitor racecourse standards:
“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.
In response, the Director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers, Robin Grossmith, said that he was pleased that the UKGC had reviewed their decision, and that they had heard pleas in mitigation from the bookmakers. He suggested that it was possible that the UKGC had come to the conclusion that the original fines were too high.
Horse racing in the UK, which has been cancelled since the end of March, may be able to resume at the start of June. The British Horseracing Authority has set out a provisional list of dates and meetings, although any resumption will depend on government advice.