Major Banks Implement Tool to Protect Problem Gamblers

Several leading banks are implementing a new tool on their mobile banking apps that will allow their customers to block certain types of payments, such as to gambling sites. 

The first major bank to implement the measure is Barclays. RBS, Santander and Lloyds are now planning on doing the same.

Significant levels of problem gambling

Problem gambling is a global issue and authorities across the world are constantly looking at ways in which they can curtail the damage. For example, many nations are implementing either blanket or partial bans on gambling operators’ advertising.

The government in the United Kingdom is set to slash the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, which are known to be a highly addictive form of gambling. Some groups even refer to these terminals as being the “crack cocaine” of gambling due to their addictive nature and they have been shown to be one of the leading causes of problem gambling. The move will slash tens of millions of pounds off British tax revenues.

With online gambling being so prominent, it has never been easier to place a bet or to gamble. People can do so from their beds or while commuting to work. Gambling advertising is everywhere and it subconsciously impacts the thought processes of the brain.

It is particularly true when it comes to sports. The top two leagues in English football, for example, are full of gambling sponsors. More than half of the teams in these leagues currently have a sports betting operator as their kit sponsors.

The operators themselves are also at fault when it comes to problem gamblers. 888 Holdings, which has numerous platforms for sports betting, poker and casino play, was recently given a fine of almost £8m after it was revealed that its self-exclusion programs did not work.

It was found that if a player wanted to stop themselves from making bets, the self-exclusion policy only worked for one of these platforms. Therefore, if they had self-excluded themselves from the poker platform, they could still play on the sports book and casino platform.

Banks join the fight

Now the banking system is bringing its own solution to the table. In December 2018, Barclays spoke of its plans to bring a gambling block into its digital platforms. This tool will help customers block transactions to both online and retail betting facilities.

Many countries where gambling is illegal use similar types of blocking technology to stop their citizens from depositing or withdrawing funds from gambling platforms. In this case, the UK banks are providing the option for those who want to stop themselves from being able to make these transactions.

RBS, Santander and Lloyds will be updating their mobile banking apps in the near future. This will allow the customer to decide where they do not want money to go.

With the current Barclays offering, customers can switch off any engagements that are in-app and relating to gambling properties. They can also block payments for four other categories: food and drink, supermarkets and groceries, petrol stations, and phone lines and premium websites.

The bank can also limit the amount of cash a customer can withdraw in a certain time period from an ATM, and likewise for online and offline credit card purchases.

RBS, Santander and Lloyds have a total of 66 million customers, so this will no doubt help a lot of people who are struggling with gambling problems.

Reaction to this development

The banks are hoping to make their customers more aware of the risks of gambling through these new measures. They also want to not have them rely on the gambling platform to exclude themselves; rather they can do so directly through their bank.

GambleAware supports the new measure. CEO Marc Etches said: “There are 340,000 problem gamblers in Britain and a further 1.7m at risk, and initiatives like this can play an important role in helping to reduce gambling-related harms.”

This is certainly a step in the right direction and it is likely that similar measures will be taken by more banks, both in the UK and across the world.