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“Little to prevent” gambling with credit, GamCare warns

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Gambling harm charity GamCare warned that there was still “little to prevent” gambling with credit in the UK, despite the implementation of a credit card ban in 2020.
Gambling Commission financial checks

The finding came from an “insight workshop” hosted by GamCare, which involved representatives from the lending sector, debt support, gambling support services, academics, policy makers, regulators and trade bodies. 

From this, the body said it learned that credit to gamble was all too easy to obtain.

“At present, there remains little to prevent consumers from borrowing with overdrafts, loans, cash withdrawals, or riskier lines of credit such as payday loans and transfers from credit cards for gambling,” it said.

GamCare said that there were three main findings from this workshop.

First, it said that “cultural change” was needed within the lending sector, with enhanced staff trained “to better understand how gambling harms can impact their customers”.

Next, GamCare said that a “gambling harm lens” should be applied when credit is offered. This would involve lenders specifically considering the possibility and effects of gambling harm when offering to lend money. GamCare said it hoped that the various stakeholders involved could together come up with “a meaningful set of indicators” of gambling harm.

Finally, GamCare said that the level of “friction” for customers should be increased, in order to make it easier to stop gambling.

This would include introducing time delays between credit application and approval to money going into a gambling account.

“I know from my personal experiences, and I now see first-hand through our lived experience community, how quickly gambling can escalate when it becomes problematic,” GamCare lived experience manager Colin Walsh said. “The ease of access to multiple lines and forms of credit in our 24/7 world allowed me and many others to gamble with borrowed money in a way which isn’t controlled, responsible or sustainable but also the guilt, remorse and shame felt after gambling episodes. 

“By raising awareness of the signs of harmful gambling with lenders I hope we are able to improve protection for people being harmed by gambling and give some time for reality checks and reflection and rather than regret and misery.”

Meanwhile, John Wightman, leader and head of practice for consumer credit with the financial ombudsman, said that lenders should already not lend to those showing signs of gambling harm unless there is a good reason to do so.

“Firms should lend responsibly and make sure their actions aren’t putting customers in a worse position,” he said. “We would expect a lender to be able to justify any decision to provide credit to a customer where it knew (or should have known) about a track record of problem gambling. 

“If a customer believes they have been treated unfairly by a lender, they should come to the financial ombudsman service for free and we will see if we can help.”

The findings came despite the Great Britain Gambling Commission bringing in a ban on the use of credit cards to gamble in 2020.

Last year, the regulator said that the ban had been “successful” and did not lead to “unintended consequences” such as forcing players to turn to riskier forms of credit to fund their play.

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