Watchdog plans credit card ban for casinos

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The gambling industry watchdog, the Gambling Commission, has stated it is taking steps to ban credit card bets being placed online. It follows on from public consultations, a recent review carried out by the Commission on online gambling as well as the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility measures on the matter.

When will the ban take effect?

The credit card ban affecting betting businesses in the UK will be implemented from April 14th 2020.

What does the credit card ban mean?

The credit card ban for gambling businesses is intended to protect those who are affected by (or could be vulnerable to) problem gambling and to make casino websites safe to use. It is estimated that approximately 22% of online gamblers who use their credit cards to place bets fall into the ‘problem gambler’ category. 

When you take into consideration the number of people who gamble in the UK, this represents a high amount of people. According to data collected by the Commission, over 24 million adults in the UK gamble, with nearly half (10.5 million) doing so online. Approximately 800,000 of these consumers use their credit cards.

In its statement announcing the ban, the Commission highlighted the ‘significant’ amount of financial harm credit card gambling s known to have caused.

For example, many thousands of consumers end up in a large amount of debt due to the credit limit facility available on their credit card. 

In addition, the fees charged by credit card providers were found by the watchdog to sometimes exacerbate the debt situation and cause an increase in gambling. This is because the consumer ‘can try to chase losses to a greater extent’ according to Neil McArthur, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive.

What are the implications of this credit card ban?

The chairwoman of the Betting and Gaming council (BGC), Brigid Simmonds, has said the industry body welcomes the new measures , adding that ‘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.’

What types of casinos will be affected?

The credit card ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products, meaning consumers can only use their debit cards, with the exception of lotteries. However, the commission will require these lotteries to provide more protection to help better shield vulnerable people from problem gambling. 

Tickets for lotteries can be bought with credit cards in newsagents and supermarkets providing they are also bought with other items. 

Criticism from campaigners that the credit card ban is not enough

Whilst it is a step in the right direction, campaigners have argued that these new regulations simply do not go far enough to tackle the issue of problem gambling.

Experts argue problem gamblers are still vulnerable, and that the measures soon to be implemented should have been enforced many years ago. 

For example, Adam Bradford of the Safer Online Gambling Group said that the watchdog had been ‘too slow’ on acting, with more needed to be done in order to help the most vulnerable.

‘A ban on betting with credit cards has been talked about for a decade, with serious proposals on the table for the past five years’.

The ban also comes two years after the gambling charity groups Citizens Advice and GambleAware pleaded with the government to implement the regulations to prevent more people from falling into gambling addiction.

GamStop regulations to also be enforced

The Gambling Commission has also stated that another regulation will also be enforced, meaning that the membership of GamStop will be a legal requirement in order for online casinos to keep their license.

What is GamStop?

GamStop enables people to block themselves from gambling sites by sharing their details. These details are then shared amongst other betting providers so that it prevents these users from attempting to open new accounts elsewhere, even through using pseudonyms.

Previously, the Commission had delayed approving the scheme due to concerns it could not guarantee that users signing up to the scheme wouldn’t also be sent marketing material that encouraged them to bet. There were also concerns it could be ineffective at preventing addicts from putting a bet.

A new Gambling Act?

It is also expected that these latest interventions are just the beginning of a complete overhaul of the Gambling Act. 

The current Gambling Act, in force since 2005 has been heavily criticised. Many opponents believe that it has been largely responsible for reducing regulation in the sector, and thus putting more customers at potential gambling harm.

It is believed that a new Gambling Act will be put in place to completely replace the existing legislation regarding gambling and betting practices in the UK.

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