Cheltenham Festival Marred by Underage Gambling Issues

An operation that was conducted at the racecourse in Cheltenham has uncovered a concerning issue with checking and validating the age of participants, as the location plans for its annual festival that attracts thousands of people from all over.

The operation took place in November of 2015 and specifically focused on the on-course bookmakers that allow spectators to place bets on various outcomes. This test is designed by the Gambling Commission to ensure that children are prohibited from placing any sort of bet, and to observe the controls put in place by bookmakers that supposedly keep underage individuals from doing so. After the test was complete, a disappointing 10 out of 15 bookmakers had allowed an underage person to place bets without verifying their age or questioning their eligibility. In January of the same year, a similar test was performed and the rate of failure was over 50% among the entire group.

January’s test was not intended to officially enforce the laws regarding underage gambling, but rather to identify weak points within the bookmakers at the racecourse so they can be addressed and fixed. However, after the November operation at least one vendor has had their license subject to review by the Gambling Commission, while others received letters of warning. The letters also offer advice on how to resolve any issues and prevent future problems from occurring. No type of action has been taken against Cheltenham racecourse, due to its full compliance with regulations.

Andrew McKinley, who is a councilor in the cabinet for development and safety, has stated his concerns regarding the poor performance of bookmakers at the racecourse and how the failure to verify someone’s age has remained an issue. The council does not have any official power over how bookmakers are licensed, and McKinley adds that they depend greatly on the Gambling Commission to take action against any bookmakers who are not following regulations.

The Gambling Commission has been criticized for their lax approach to handling violating bookmakers, and discussions continue to take place between the two parties regarding how to consistently protect children from gambling at a young age.