UK May Ban Use of Credit Cards for Online Gambling

The UK’s gambling regulator is considering banning the use of credit cards for placing bets online, according to a new report from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).

In its 63-page report, Review of online gambling, the gambling regulator said that gambling with credit cards “increases the risk that consumers will gamble more than they can afford” and that it may “consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards and the offering of credit”. The Gambling Commission added that it would consider the consequences of doing so.

The announcement from the regulator was added to its review of how to make online gambling safer in Britain. The report also illustrated that industry profits have grown 10% to £4.7bn ($6.6bn) in the past 12 months, with growth expected to continue. Public participation has also risen, from 15.5% in 2014 to 18.3% in 2017, while it’s estimated that nine million people across Britain gamble online.

Credit card use is risky

With credit cards an everyday feature in most people’s lives, using them to make purchases or pay for things is generally taken for granted. However, the ease of using them can become a slippery slope for vulnerable individuals. As a result, campaigners have been fighting to stop gamblers from using their credit cards to finance their habit.

Speaking to the Guardian, Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP who campaigns for safer gambling, said: “The thought of credit card gambling terrifies me. Gambling debts already are a major concern not just for the individual, but for their family who pays the price of the consequences.”

The hope is that a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling would protect those at risk from gambling more than they can afford.

Additional safety measures in the review include tackling unfair terms and conditions, improving the age verification and “know your customer” (KYC) processes, and identifying customers who may be at risk before things get out of control.

With the biggest regulated online gambling market in the world located in Britain, Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, said: “The proposals we have announced today are intended to protect children better, reduce the risks to vulnerable consumers and build on the measures we already impose on operators to know their customers and intervene at an earlier stage before consumers experience harm.”

Sky Bet fined $1 million

Failing to protect vulnerable customers saw the Gambling Commission hit sports betting company Sky Bet with a £1m ($1.40m) fine last month.

As reported by the BBC, the Gambling Commission found that 736 self-excluded Sky Bet customers were still able to open and use copied accounts; around 50,000 self-excluded customers were still receiving marketing emails, push notifications or text messages; and the balances on account of nearly 36,500 self-excluded customers were not returned.

Sky Bet is reported to have alerted the Gambling Commission as soon as the issues became apparent; however, it still received a £1 million fine. While stating that Sky Bet had worked with the regulator and taken the investigation seriously, Richard Watson, the UKGC programme director, also said: “This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers and the £1m penalty package should serve as a warning to all gambling businesses.”

888Holdings, owners of the 888poker name, was handed a £7.8m ($11m) fine in 2017 after it failed to protect vulnerable customers. Business Insider reports that it permitted 7,000 self-excluded customers to make deposits that amounted to over £3.5m ($5m) over a period of 13 months. The company also failed to spot the red flags of one customer who gambled £1.3m (nearly $2m), in that time period, £55,000 ($77,300) of which was stolen from an employer to fund bets.