The Gambling Commission looked at a few pertinent numbers in their review. In the UK, 24 million adults gamble. Nearly half of that number, 10.5 million, gamble online. And approximately 800,000 of those consumers make use of credit cards when funding their gambling online.
Further research undertaken by the Commission shows that 22% of those using credit cards to gamble online exhibit problematic gambling behaviours, whilst even more than that are at risk of some harm at least.
The aim of the ban
The ban to use credit cards to pay for gambling will apply to all online and offline gambling product, except non-remote lotteries (e.g. the National Lottery). This is intended to add another layer to the protection of vulnerable people.
The chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, 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.”
And: “We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability. There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”
Applicable to all
Of course, the Gambling Commission is aware that many millions of customers gamble responsibly and that many of those using credit cards to fund the gambling do so because it is simply convenient. But the risk of harm to those who are more vulnerable outweighs the benefits of their use for others.
McArthur added: “But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers.”
Banning credit cards, which takes effect on the 14th April 2020, is only one measure in the effort to protect consumers, however. A lot of steps have been taken last year to reduce the harm of gambling to vulnerable people. That includes the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, tighter age and identity checks and expanded national specialist support through the NHS Long Term Plan.
Additionally, five leading gambling operators have promised £100 million in funding towards treatment for problem gamblers.
This year, all online gambling providers are required to participate in the GAMSTOP scheme from the 31st March onwards.
Helen Whately, Culture Minister, said: “We have been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, such as operators, social media platforms and banks, that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help consumers manage their spending and protect them from harm.
Consequences for players and online gambling operators
The new ban and requirement to participate in GAMSTOP are further steps for gambling operators to take towards ensuring responsible gambling, which many online casinos and bookmakers support – at least on paper.
Operators, who wish to retain the UKGC licenses, will have to remove credit cards as a payment option for UK customers and join GAMSTOP.
Considering the millions of customers who don’t rely on credit card payments anyway this should not be overly problematic.
And the consumer? There are plenty of other options to fund online casino account through eWallets or instant banking. It is indeed safer to use only available funds instead of gambling money they don’t have.
The UKGC are not the first to disallow the use of credit cards for online gambling, and when it comes to the protection of vulnerable players, it is a step in the right direction.