Bishop & Sewell

There aren’t many horse races where even members of the general public know the names of infamous jumps, but mention Beechers Brook and The Chair, and most of us will know they’re two of the obstacles confronting horse and rider at the Grand National, writes David Little, a Partner in our Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases (and who has drawn the 16/1 Capodanno in the office Grand National sweepstake…).

The race has notoriety of course. Invariably some of the many fallers break a leg and the have to be humanely killed by the on-course vet. This year’s event may yet be disrupted by protestors who have announced their intention of disrupting the race. A spokesman for Animal Rising has said they intend to disrupt the race.

We’ll have to see what happens on Saturday. In the meantime, the industry is having a rough time. As I wrote recently affordability checks, compulsorily imposed on high street bookmakers, on a punter’s capacity to gamble have lowered takings by as much as £60 million to £100 million according to British racing’s leadership.

Racing Post’s recent Big Punting Survey. The survey received more than 10,400 responses and found that 16.6 per cent of those who replied had already been asked to provide personal financial information such as bank statements and tax returns in order to have a bet.

Two thirds of those asked said they would refuse to provide their financial details if asked to do so by a bookmaker, while more than 55 per cent of those who have already been asked for documents said they had refused to do so.

The checks are down to the Gambling Commission. Sarah Gardner, Gambling Commission Deputy Chief Executive recently cited the 2018 Health Survey for England as showing that 0.5 per cent of the population were problem gamblers. In September the Commission said the overall headline problem gambling rate on another measure was statistically stable at 0.3 per cent.

The government is planning a White Paper prior to forming legislation on how to reduce this figure, but in the meantime racing pundits are up in arms that the Commission is using statistics involving online bingo and slot machine addicts.

If horse racing fanciers object to showing their bank statements at the bookies – understandably so – the vacuum the horseracing lobby fears will be filled by the black market. The Racing Post’s survey found that 3.6 per cent of respondents had used a black market operator in the last 12 months, while a further 11 per cent knew someone who had.

The government has been promising legislation on this issue for several years. In all candour can we expect legislation before the next general election? Is it a vote winner? Probably not, so the likelihood is slim. In the meantime horse racing which relies on the levy paid to it from bookmakers is shrinking before our eyes. British racing was already facing major challenges due to its lack of financial competitiveness against other jurisdictions with more favourable funding regimes.

Surely a sensible approach is that regulation should be targeted specifically at those with issues, and the genuinely vulnerable, and avoid pushing those who get great fun out of the sport into the arms of the unregulated market?


David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB386 on either 020 7631 4141 or email

The above is accurate as at 14 April 2023. 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: 14th Apr 2023

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