The long-term debate about banning credit cards from the British gambling market ended in favor of the prohibition, which will apply by 14 April. The Gambling Commission based this decision on findings of its recent review of online gambling in the country.
According to the review, more than 24 million adults in the UK gamble and almost 45% of them choose to do it online. UK Finance believes that approximately 800,000 players select the payment method of credit cards when gambling. The figure that concerns the UKGC though is that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are ranked as addicted. The goal of the Commission is to provide a “further layer of additional protection” to those gamblers that are considered as “vulnerable”. The prohibition will stand for any type of gambling either land-based or online with the sole exception of non-remote lotteries.
Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, elaborated on the necessity of the ban by commenting that a significant number of players gamble with money they don’t have, so they cause self-harm. As he explained, problematic players accumulate unbearable debts, because of the possibility given by credit cards to gamble money they don’t own. Mr McArthur admitted that credit cards may be convenient for gambling purposes but there is also evidence that the risk of self-harm is way too high for the UKGC to allow it to continue. The CEO of the British regulator warned that the fight against gambling harm needs other measures other than banning credit cards as well.
Last year, as part of this ongoing battle Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ministers attended various meetings with people from the industry, among them gambling operators and bank representatives. In those meetings, the parts discussed the potential of using technology and KYC policies to address the gambling problem.
Helen Whately, Minister of Culture, agreed with Mr McArthur on the urgency of dealing with the credit card problem. She commented that there may be a vast majority that gambles responsibly, however, there are many people on the verge of financial collapse due to excessive gambling and the British authorities have to protect them. She added that the ban of credit cards is part of a series of tougher measures that were taken the past year including the reduction of maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals, intensifying the KYC policies and extending the communication with the operators by assigning national specialists to support them.
Mrs Whately has confirmed that further action was taken by the government which secured the commitment from five powerhouses of the industry regarding funding the treatment of addictive gamblers. Moreover, every casino brand operating in the UK will be obliged to take part in the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme, starting from 31 March. Finally, according to Mrs Whately government is working in association with high profile banks towards the limiting of mobile gambling. The Minister stressed that the convenience that smartphones have brought to the players who can gamble from everywhere nowadays, leads to excessive gambling patterns and needs to be confronted.