The United Kingdom Gaming Commission (UKGC) has outlined plans to ban online credit card deposits at gaming operators after concerns that gamblers are racking up huge debts with gambling firms and creditors alike. The action has finally been taken two years after charity groups such as GambleAware and Citizens Advice asked the government to enforce the policy.
The UKGC sees making it impossible for bookmakers to accept credit card deposits for betting online as necessary in their bid to protect vulnerable customers. According to UK Finance, 800,000 consumers currently use credit cards to gamble, while the gambling watchdog believes that 22% of credit card gamblers can be identified as problem gamblers.
Protection From Gambling Harms A Necessity
The move will come into force from April the 14th, after which customers of gambling companies will be banned from using their credit cards for betting. The move will not only impact on betting however, the ban will also apply to almost all gambling activities save for face-to-face lottery sales undertaken in a store and referred to as non-remote lotteries.
E-wallets such as Skrill, Neteller and even PayPal may well find themselves included in the ban as they have, in the past, been used to bypass banking limits and allowing for spends of up to £150,000 a day.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur acknowledged that, while credit cards were convenient for some, the negative impacts on others was too high a risk making the move a necessity.
” 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. Research shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm.
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.”
More Still To Be Done
The culture minister, Helen Whately believes that there is now enough clear evidence of gamblers, likely to be addicted, self-inflicting harm on themselves by wagering with money they do not have, that they need protecting.
Pointing to the introduction of tougher measures such as reducing maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals and bringing in tougher identity checking laws, Whately admitted that there is still lots more to be done, like undertaking a review of the outdated Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age.
Whatley has also worked closely with the cause of such issues, the gambling companies, the leading five of which have all committed to a range of measures, and the cure, the NHS, who have signed up to the Long Term Plan.
Welcoming the move to ban credit cards, Eytan Alexander, the managing director of the addiction treatment firm UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT), himself a former gambling addict, believes that VIP schemes that reward gamblers with perks for their high stakes and regular bets should be the next area of online gaming to come under review.
Brigid Simmonds, the chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, said her Council was firmly committed to raising standards in order to ensure safer gambling, adding;
“We will implement a ban on credit cards and indeed our members will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk. The use of credit cards was previously used as a potential marker of harm which might lead to further intervention with customers.”
The credit card crackdown will now work with other measures to stop people getting into debt, like the whistle to whistle advertising ban during sporting events, and will soon be joined by the UKGC enforcing all gambling operators to sign up and become members of GamStop, a UK self-exclusion programme, if they want a licence to operate in the UK.
Despite only being announced on Tuesday the 14th of January, the Gambling Commission’s motion has already had a negative effect on the share prices of major gambling industry players, with stocks falling.