Published:

Andrew Bridgen is MP for North West Leicestershire.

Over previous months, my concerns have been well documented about the case for, and effectiveness of, the ‘single customer view’ (SCV) and affordability checks which have been mooted in the forthcoming Gambling White Paper.

Whilst I believe in the liberty of people to spend their own money as they see fit without Government intrusion, it is becoming increasingly obvious that safeguards are being brought in, with an SCV trial and Gamstop running the pilot.

However, to quote Sir Humphrey, ‘if we are going to do this damn silly thing, lets not do it in this damn silly way’.

There is a far better solution, which achieves the objectives of SCV but offers a greater protection for all punters who get caught up in bookmaker red tape which is susceptible to abuse by those not wanting to pay out on winning accounts.

Instead of SCV, we should instead be implementing a single customer wallet, which would work in the same way as a Paypal, Skrill, or the Neteller wallet. This would have a standard deposit amount set per month and could be decreased on request or increased with a one time proof of income or wealth.

There would be significant advantages and efficiencies for legitimate bookmakers and punters alike.

Currently bookmakers are employing significant resources in checking age and identity and complying with anti-money laundering regulations. An independent wallet would eliminate the need for every different bookmaker to undertake these checks, as deposits would come from the single verified source.

This would give greater confidence to punters who are all too frequently caught up in ping pong exchanges with bookmakers trying to prove their identity and being subject to invasive checks into their financial status.

The obvious efficiencies would more than cover the cost of operating an independently-managed single customer wallet. It would also be far easier to highlight gambling harm, as that could be measured by the amounts leaving the wallet.

It would also be able to take account of lifetime winnings and provide a more rounded picture, so successful punters do not get caught up in checks if they lose a large amount to one particular company, as well as allowing the opportunity to distinguish between monies being deposited into the more skilled sports betting and the unskilled, random online casinos and slots.

So far, te noises we hear out of the Gambling Review currently are predominantly from bookmakers and gambling harm charities or organisations. There has been precious little from the average punter who is subject to numerous checks and restrictions in their attempts to get a fair bet laid and get paid by a bookmaker (without having to needlessly lay out their financial affairs).

Bookmakers are right to highlight the dangers posed by the new legislation with regards to the black market. But whilst making this argument, they must also accept that the restrictions imposed on thousands of punters by bookmakers is also a significant factor in empowering the black market. This is something an effective Gambling Commission should have been looking into and preventing – however, the ability of that organisation to protect those who like to gamble is very much open to question.

I will be asking to meet the Minister and the Gambling Commission to discuss this proposal and hope that this will be seen as an effective compromise to protect all punters whilst both eliminating bureaucracy for bookmakers and the potential to abuse legislation to avoid pay-outs. In exchange, if the bookmakers are serious about tackling the black market, these endless restrictions on the accounts of those who show the slightest potential of winning must cease. 

This seems a more Conservative solution to me.