The Gambling Commission has announced a ban on gambling businesses allowing consumers in Great Britain to use credit cards to gamble.

The ban, which comes into effect on 14 April, follows the Commission’s review of online gambling and the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. A public consultation was carried out between August and November 2019.

24 million adults in Great Britain gamble, with 10.5 million of those gambling online. UK Finance estimate that 800,000* consumers use credit cards to gamble.

Separate research undertaken by the Commission shows that 22%** of online gamblers using credit cards to gamble are classed as problem gamblers – with even more at some risk of harm.

The ban, which will apply to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries, will provide a significant layer of additional protection to vulnerable people.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: 

“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.”

Mr McArthur said although he understood that some consumers used credit cards because they were convenient, the risk of harm to others was too high to allow the use of credit cards to continue.

“We realise that this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly but we are satisfied that reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken.” he said. “But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers.”

Mr McArthur warned that although likely to reduce gambling harm, the banning of credit cards needed to be accompanied by other efforts.

“The ban is part of our ongoing work to reduce gambling harm. We also need to continue the work we have been doing with gambling operators and the finance industry to ensure consumers only gamble with money they can afford to spend.”

Last year Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ministers also met with banks and gambling operators to discuss their growing concerns, and how companies could use technology and customer data to help those at risk of developing gambling problems, including those using credit cards.

Culture Minister Helen Whately said: 

“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction.

“There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.

“In the past year we have introduced a wave of tougher measures, including cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, bringing in tighter age and identity checks for online gambling and expanding national specialist support through the NHS Long Term Plan. We have also secured a series of commitments from five leading gambling operators that will include £100 million funding towards treatment for problem gamblers.

“But there is more to do. We will be carrying out a review of the Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age and we will be launching a new nationwide addiction strategy in 2020.

“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm.”

Today has also seen the Commission announce changes to licence conditions which will require all online gambling operators to participate in the GAMSTOP scheme and offer their customers the service from 31 March.

Neil McArthur said:

“We welcome the fact that GAMSTOP have got to this stage in their development and encourage them to continue to improve their offer, particularly in relation to preventing those who have self-excluded being targeted by direct marketing.

“It is important that self-exclusion schemes are as effective as possible and they will be most effective when used in combination with other blocking tools such as gambling blocking software and payment card blocking.

Helen Whately added: 

“We have been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, such as operators, social media platforms and banks, that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help consumers manage their spending and protect them from harm.

“I have been encouraged by the majority of major high street banks introducing measures to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps.

“By making it a regulatory requirement for all online gambling websites licensed in Great Britain to sign up to Gamstop. I am confident that people who have taken the significant step to opt out of gambling will be well supported, alongside a wide range of other tools.”

Read the Commission’s press release on GAMSTOP.

Read the full credit card consultation response.

Source: Gambling Commission

Background

  • The ban comes into effect three months from today, covering all forms of land-based and online gambling.
  • The ban will not extend to non-remote lotteries (where payment is made face-to face).
  • We acknowledge that National Lottery and society lottery tickets and scratchcards can be bought in supermarkets and newsagents along with other products. It would be a disproportionate burden on retailers to identify and prevent credit card payments for lottery tickets if they form part of a wider shop. National Lottery retailers are trained in preventing excessive play and National Lottery draw-based games have the lowest problem gambling rate of any product at 1%.
  • The National Lottery already does not accept credit card payments for online play. Some other gambling operators have already put in voluntary measures to prevent credit card transactions.
  • The Gambling Commission received 128 consultation responses. Gamcare and Gordon Moody coordinated responses from a further 86 treatment service users.

Data sources

  • *800,000 consumers in the UK used a UK-issued credit card for gambling in 2018. Data source UK Finance.
  • Separate research undertaken by the Commission shows that 22%** of online gamblers using credit cards to gamble are classed as problem gamblers – with more at some risk of harm. Data source: gambling participation research, March 2019. The research was conducted online by Populus and covered a representative sample of c.2000 adults, of whom c.150 had reported using a credit card to gamble online.