Bishop & Sewell

One of the greatest jockeys of all time has recently announced that 2023 will be his swansong, and I will do all I can to see him race at least one last time. I imagine hundreds of thousands of people will also do the same. Indeed, Frankie Dettori’s swansong might just be the boost horseracing needs after several very bad years.

The sport of kings – aka horse racing – and the gambling industry more widely, has been going through a rocky patch lately, writes David Little, a Partner in our Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases too.

The scrutiny around the gambling industry has come about following the clamp down in betting shops to reduce the maximum stake for in-store gaming machines to £2 from £100.

For those of you who perhaps just have a flutter on the Grand National office sweepstake once a year you might think it insane that anyone would bet £100 on a single spin of slot machine. Indeed it’s hard to argue otherwise, but how intrusive should checks be that a gambler can afford the bets they’re making? The problem is especially acute regarding online gambling, the proceeds from which the horse racing industry relies upon.

This has vexed both the government, the horseracing industry and the Gambling Commission for years, and delays in the introduction of new legislation have damaged an industry that was already struggling post Covid. In 2020 a government consultation suggesting bookmakers should carry out affordability checks on their customers caused consternation with horse racing who quite rightly anticipated than many punters would refuse to give up such personal information and would either not bet at all or use black-market channels.

According to the Racing Post here, letters sent to MPs by the racing industry in early 2021 detailed the £250m hit racecourse revenues had already suffered because of the Covid-19 pandemic and spoke of a further £60m impact per annum on the sport’s revenues from lost levy and media rights payments if blanket affordability checks as low as £100 were introduced.

The numerous recent delays to intended legislation have not been helpful, but perhaps things may be about to begin the long turn for home. The Gambling Commission in its summary on the year ahead believes that one of its priorities will be to respond to the Government’s White Paper on the Gambling Act (due in the Spring), and working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to develop and implement changes to regulation of the gambling sector.

For anyone who’s ever been to Ascot, seeing Dettori’s magic up the hill, we must just will the government and the Gambling Commission to sort out the law on gambling restrictions.


Contact our Sports Lawyer

David Little, is a Partner in the Corporate & Commercial team and also Head of Sports Law for the firm. If you would like to contact him please quote Ref CB371 on either 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is accurate as at 20 December 2022. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 20th Dec 2022

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