Credit Cards – UK Regulator Mulls Possible Ban for Gambling

Hand holding credit card

30-second summary

  • Watchdog reviewing use of credit cards to place bets
  • As much as £8.6m a year being gambled via credit cards
  • MPs concerned it adds to Britain’s gambling epidemic of 480,000 problem gamblers

After a Daily Mail report highlighted the way gambling companies encourage their customers into spending more money, the next call for action is to ban the use of credit cards. It is feared that credit cards aid vulnerable gamblers to spiral into debt.

Last year, the UK Gambling Commission stated it had begun looking at the use of credit cards. The official review will begin next week, potentially resulting in a tightening of the law around them.

Restrictions on credit card betting

Gamblers are about to find there could be new restrictions on placing bets via their credit cards. Most major online betting firms, including Bet365, Britain’s largest gambling company, allow their customers to pay using credit cards, although they state it is “a high-risk payment method”.

Both campaigners and MPs are having a say on the issue, campaigners stating that a credit card ban is essential for the protection of vulnerable gambling addicts.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG), said: “The fact you’re allowed to use credit cards to gamble is appalling. I have spoken to so many people who have used card after card to fuel their addictions. The fact it’s that easy for people to destroy their lives is utterly unbelievable.”

“More responsibility” needed

In a recent move to reduce gamblers’ impulse spending, some banks such as Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and the Royal Bank of Scotland have given their customers the option of blocking themselves from gambling on both debit and credit cards.

However, this action alone does not satisfy Harris, who said banks need to “take more responsibility” in aiding gamblers further, by increasing the options they can take in controlling the amount they can bet online.

Spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, Matt Zarb-Cousin, stated: “If you went to the bank and asked for a loan because you wanted to go to the casino you would be laughed out of the branch, so there is no justification for allowing gambling via credit cards.

“Betting more than you can afford is a sign of problem gambling, so permitting gambling on credit cards facilitates and endorses harmful activity.”

The UKGC stated last year that it had begun its investigation into credit cards and was evaluating the benefits of a credit card ban. Its official review of the use of credit cards commences later this week, which could result in stricter laws and regulations. The watchdog will deliberate with the gambling companies in conjunction with hearing evidence on the use of credit cards.

Government won’t “hesitate to act”

The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright said: “Protecting people from the risks of gambling-related harm is vital. All businesses with connections to gambling – be that bookmakers, social media platforms or banks – must be socially responsible.

“The government will not hesitate to act if businesses don’t continue to make progress in this area and do all they can to ensure vulnerable people are protected. We should ask if it is right that people should be able to gamble on credit and this is an area the Gambling Commission is going to look into.”

A number of charities that support those around gambling problems are backing the issue, such as Britian’s leading charity, GambleAware. Another charity, Gambling with Lives, an organisation that represents the families of those who have taken their lives due to gambling, stated: “’The facilitation of gambling by credit offered by banks requires stricter control, and action on this is crucial. Gambling addiction is a serious health problem that can lead to suicide.”

Techniques and strategies such as those uncovered by a Daily Mail reporter at Bet365 entice and encourage customers into spending more money. Bet365 was revealed to be offering cashbacks, VIP status and football tickets to win. These tactics pave the way to serious addiction for gamblers.

There are 480,000 gambling addicts in the UK, another 2m at risk, and two people die by gambling-related suicide every working day. MPs are calling for a ban on the rebate schemes and now look to tackle the credit card issue too.