The GB Gambling Commission has announced that it will introduce a ban on the use of credit cards for all forms of online and land-based gambling from 14 April.
The decision comes after the Commission’s review of online gambling and the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures, while a public consultation on the issue ran from August to November 2019.
The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products, with the exception of non-remote lotteries, including products such as physical National Lottery tickets and scratchcards purchased in-person at approved retail outlets.
According to the regulator, the new ban will help provide a significant layer of additional protection to vulnerable people in Britain.
“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,” GC chief executive Neil McArthur said.
“We 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.”
McArthur said while he understood some consumers used credit cards because they were convenient, the risk of harm to other players was too high to allow the use of this payment to continue in gambling.
“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,” McArthur said. “But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers.
“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.”
Culture Minister Helen Whately also praised the move: “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.”
Whately also confirmed the government will carry out a review of the Gambling Act in order to “ensure it is fit for the digital age”, as promised in the ruling Conservative Party's election manifesto. Plans are also in place to launch a new nationwide addiction strategy in 2020 as part of an ongoing effort to tackle problem gambling in the UK.
“We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm,” Whately said.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the trade association for the UK gambling industry, declared its support for the new ban, and immediately pledged that its members would go one step further.
“We will implement a ban on credit cards and indeed our members will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk,” BGC chair Brigid Simmonds said. “The use of credit cards were previously used as a potential marker of harm which might lead to further intervention with customers.”
Marc Etches, chief executive of problem gambling funding body GambleAware, also hailed the credit card ban, noting that it was essential that every effort was made to protect those experiencing gambling harm.
“Gambling is a public health issue and mobile technology gives people access to gambling anytime, anywhere,” he explained. “Anyone who chooses to gamble should be able to do so in a safe environment, where the risks and available support options are made crystal clear.”
Meanwhile, the GC has also announced changes to its licence conditions whereby all online gambling operators will be required to participate in the GamStop online self-exclusion scheme and offer customers the service from 31 March.