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UKGC planning to ban credit cards at online bookies & casinos

Online gambling ban on credit cards in UK

Although Boris Johnson and the new Conservative government in the UK have a few more pressing issues just now than the Gambling Act, politicians and the mainstream media are lobbying for more regulations in the gaming and wagering industry. That movement could see the Gambling Commission (UKGC) introduce a ban on credit card deposits at online bookmakers and casinos.

Online bookmakers in the UK process credit card payments in less than a minute. In theory, a vulnerable customer could reach a credit card limit without any control from the operators, support bodies or the Commission. The press have a field day when there is anecdotal evidence of a problem gambler overspending on a credit card.

New rules for credit card betting are imminent, but lobbying groups have been calling for this move for two years. GambleAware and Citizens Advice have been urging the government to introduce such a ban to protect individuals that have the potential to develop a gambling addiction.

There are no restrictions other than deposit limits on the payments made to high-profile operators such as PokerStars, Betfair, 888 and bet365 using credit cards. The Guardian highlighted a case in which a customer was able to use nine credit cards. The individual lost £54,000 in one night and staked £380,000 in one session.

A total credit card ban means gamblers can only bet with funds in a bank account that they transfer using a debit card. E-wallets such as PayPal will most likely fall within the ban. The Guardian reported that gamblers can get around banking limits and deposit up to £150,000 a day using these payment services. The credit card ban is part of a wider package of compliance rules from the UKGC.

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One of the licence conditions for online casinos in the UK is joining GamStop. Customers can self-exclude by giving GamStop their details, which are shared with other operators. The individual will not be able to open other accounts, even using pseudonyms.

The UKGC has been reluctant to endorse GamStop. There was the potential for registered problem gamblers to be sent marketing material encouraging them to bet, thus defeating the object of the scheme. GamStop was launched in 2017, but the regulator is only now satisfied that it can be effective in preventing addicts from placing bets.

There have been very few significant areas of agreement in the British parliament over the last three years. Labour introduced a policy promise to ban betting on credit in September 2018. The announcement was overshadowed by Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. MPs from all parties support measures to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable customers.

The government can begin the process of creating a new Gambling Act after Boris and his friends have “got Brexit done”. The UK will formally leave the EU on January 31, after which time other issues, such as gambling, can be addressed. The existing Gambling Act, passed by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2005, has been criticised due to the dramatic slackening of regulations.

The credit card development comes at a time when the UK online gambling industry is under fire on several fronts. Reports indicate VIP schemes produce heavy losses for customers. The Football Association agreed with seven betting operators to live stream FA Cup matches, although the £750 million exclusive deal has since been modified so that the matches can be shown on other platforms.

The timing may not be right for the revelation from Companies House about one of the seven operators, bet365. Denise Coates, the founder, received a salary package of £323 million last year. This is the all-time record for a chief executive of a British company, beating the previous high mark of £265 million set by Coates last year. Banning credit card payments will offset some of the negative media coverage, but it is only a small step for gambling to get a better profile in the press and parliament.

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