UK Gambling Commission Eyes Credit Card Ban

Earlier this month the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced it was launching a 3-month consultation on the possibility of banning or restricting the use of credit cards in online gambling. From 14 August to 6 November the UKGC will seek feedback from financial and other experts before making its final assessments on whether or not players should be able to continue using credit cards to deposit funds to online casinos.

If the UKGC introduce a such a ban, it is expected to have a dramatic effect on players and online casinos alike.

Why are the UKGC considering banning the use of credit cards?

There have been responsible gambling concerns over the use of credit cards for some time now. The UKGC found that up to 20% of the deposits made to online casinos are in fact from borrowed money, leading to fears that some players are gambling with more than they can afford to lose. A credit card provides a player with easy access to money they don’t actually have, and the worry is that their gambling could more easily spiral out of control, resulting in gambling addiction and debt. Previous studies have found that players do indeed gamble greater amounts when they have access to credit.

If the ban goes ahead it would not be the first of its kind. This year the Australian bank Macquarie banned the use of its credit cards on all forms of gambling.

The UKGC wants to ensure that online slot sites remain a safe and enjoyable place for players, which is why they have ordered this consultation. On the issue, the culture secretary Jeremy Wright said, “protecting people from the risks of gambling-related harm is vital and all businesses with connections to gambling – be that bookmakers, social media platforms or banks – must be socially responsible”.

What are online casinos saying about this?

No responsible online casino operator wants to cause harm to their customers, and most take all the necessary steps to ensure that playing is a fun experience. Many are opposed to an outright ban, though, citing the convenience of credit cards as a payment method for their customers. They advised that for players who aren’t problem gamblers, it is unfair to remove the credit card payment option.

They also pointed out that a credit card ban could be circumvented by using e-wallets or cash withdrawals, and that credit cards aren’t the only form of credit players can obtain – some may resort to overdrafts of taking out loans instead. Data provided by the charity Step Change has indicated that some problem gamblers are in debt from more than one form of gambling.

Given the difficulty in effectively banning all forms of funding that originate from borrowing, many gaming operators have suggested that the focus should instead be on helping players suffering from gambling addiction. Others point to the necessity of more stringent affordability checks on the part of operators, rather than changes to gambling law.

Several UK banks, including Barclays, Lloyds, Santander and the Royal Bank of Scotland have introduced measures that will allow customers to block spending on gambling through their mobile apps.

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