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UK Gambling Commission bans credit card betting

Gambling with credit cards

Gamblers in Great Britain will not be able to use credit cards to deposit funds into online betting accounts, as a result of a ban announced by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). After a review of online gambling undertaken by the Commission and the government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures, credit cards will be banned for gambling from April 14 this year.

It is estimated that there are 24 million gamblers in Britain, including 10.5 million who gamble online. UK Finance believes 800,000 gamblers use credit cards to make deposits. The Commission’s research indicates that 22% of problem gamblers use credit cards. The ban applies to all online and offline betting except non-remote lotteries. That means UK online bookmakers and casino sites will no longer accept credit card deposits.

The objective of the credit card ban is to provide more protection for vulnerable people. However, a vocal bookmaker has suggested the move will lead to more betting on black markets where there is no regulation. Credit card betting is convenient for most gamblers but carries risks of problem gambling.

The thoughts of the Gambling Commission were expressed by chief executive Neil McArthur, who said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have. We also know there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.”

Credit card fees can add to the problem because bettors are able to deposit more to try to win back losses. There has to be balance between the convenience for most customers and the potential for harm created by the use of credit cards. That analysis has concluded that the risks outweigh the benefits. The ban will be subject to ongoing evaluation.

Mr McArthur said that the credit card ban was part of the work done by the UKGC, operators and finance service providers to ensure consumers are gambling within an affordable budget. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) met with the same companies last year. An area for discussion was the use of data to help those at risk, including credit card users.

Culture minister Helen Whately said: “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction. There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.”

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The minister highlighted the raft of other measures that have been introduced over the last year:

• Cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
• More stringent age and identity verification procedures.
• Increased support through the NHS Long Term Plan.
• Greater funding commitment from operators.

The new Conservative government will review the Gambling Act so it is appropriate for digital technology and launch an addiction strategy across the country. The Commission, for its part, has announced changes to licence conditions. Online gambling companies will now have to become members of GAMSTOP and offer the service to their customers from the end of March.

Mr McArthur is happy with how GAMSTOP has developed. The Commission is now encouraging improvements and welcomes the prevention of self-excluded gamblers receiving betting marketing material.

Ms Whately believes all stakeholders should use technology to further socially responsible betting. She said: “I have been encouraged by the majority of high street banks introducing measures to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps.”

Brigid Simmons OBE, the chairman of the Betting and Gaming Council, commented: “The BGC strongly welcomes the requirement for all companies to join GAMSTOP as part of our continued determination to raise standards in the industry. We will implement a ban on credit cards which adds to measures such as age-verification, markers of harm and affordability checks, additional funding for research, education and treatment and new codes of conduct to protect the consumer.”

However, not everybody in the industry is singing from the same hymn sheet.

Geoff Banks is a UK bookie on the front line who has strong opinions about how the UKGC operates. He said in a recent Twitter post: “Gambling Commission announces its latest ban. The majority who gamble sensibly are immediately disadvantaged. The minority who cannot control themselves supposedly advantaged. Both groups will head to black markets. These steps are entirely in the wrong direction.” The regulators and DCMS see things differently and have acted accordingly.

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