Strict new regulations to ensure that bookmakers verify the age of their customers to prevent underage gambling are due to be introduced on 7 May, which most punters would probably agree is a good idea and quite possibly long overdue.
However, a William Hill customer who has had an account with the firm for nearly 20 years – and so is most definitely not underage – has been in touch to highlight a potential pitfall in the new rules, which could ensnare a substantial number of punters.
On Wednesday morning, he received an email from Hills to say that his account had been frozen until he can prove that he is at least 18 years old. He cannot withdraw the funds in the account, or close it before the new rules come into force next month, but he is also unable to comply with the new regulations because Hills will accept only a passport or a driver’s licence as proof of age, and he has neither.
A recent estimate is that 24% of UK residents – about 13 million – do not have a passport, while about 10 million do not have either a full or provisional driver’s licence. While it is hard to know how many fall into both categories, the crossover is likely to be significant.
The UK, of course, does not have a mandatory ID card and if William Hill’s insistence that only a passport or driver’s licence is acceptable as proof of age is mirrored across the gambling industry, which could well be the case, the punter who has contacted the Guardian is unlikely to be the only long-standing customer locked out of their account on 7 May.
“The new legislation does not take effect until 7 May,” he said via email, “and no prior warning was given by Hills that my account would be frozen until receiving an email after my account was suspended.”
He adds that phone calls and “live chat” with customer services on the Hills website proved “unproductive”, and that his understanding from the Gambling Commission is that a data set that includes date of birth, address and nearly 20 years of bank details should be sufficient to comply with the new rules.
A William Hill spokesman later advised the customer that in this case at least, an uploaded copy of his birth certificate would satisfy the age-verification requirements. A link to the firm’s FAQ page on verification is here and includes an option to send a copy of a birth certificate via email.
Thursday’s best bets
Backers have four-and-a-half meetings to choose from as the seven-race card at Kempton has been left in a wretched state by the good-to-firm ground. There are 30 runners in all but nine of those are in the opener and the subsequent races have fields of five, three, two, three, three and five.
There is more to get stuck into at Perth, where Las Tunas (3.00) and Saint Leo (3.30) should both go well on the second day of its Festival meeting, while King Of Tonga (3.20), who has been gelded over the winter, and the recent all-weather winner Dragon Sun (3.55) have big claims on the card at Beverley. Cardigan Bay (3.10) and Pentland Lad (7.30) are the top picks at Warwick and Chelmsford City, respectively.
Beverley 1.40 Iva Go 2.15 Knightcap 2.50 Prestbury Park 3.20 King Of Tonga (nb) 3.55 Dragon Sun (nap) 4.25 Agar’s Plough 4.55 Kylie Rules 5.25 Oasis Prince
Perth 1.50 Rakhine State 2.25 Theflyingportrait
3.00 Las Tunas 3.30 Saint Leo 4.05 Bordeaux Bill 4.35 Double Whammy 5.10 Rizzardo
Warwick 2.00 My Charity 2.35 Danseur Du Large
3.10 Cardigan Bay 3.40 Cruiseaweigh 4.15 Potters Hedger 4.45 Boughtbeforelunch 5.20 The Swagman 5.55 O Connell Street
Kempton Park 4.40 So Lonely 5.15 Fransham 5.50 Statistical 6.20 Black Kalanisi 6.50 For Good Measure 7.20 Kings Ryde 7.50 Monsieur Gibraltar
Chelmsford City 5.30 The Pinto Kid 6.00 Hero Hero
6.30 Walk On Water 7.00 Dream Of Dreams 7.30 Pentland Lad 8.00 Labrega 8.30 Harbour Vision 9.00 Admiral Rooke