Online gamblers will no longer be allowed to use credit cards for betting

Campaigners welcome ban but say new gambling act is needed to protect vulnerable punters

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 14 January 2020 11:55 GMT
The Gambling Commission has announced that customers will have to use debit cards or cash deposits to place bets online from April
The Gambling Commission has announced that customers will have to use debit cards or cash deposits to place bets online from April

Gambling customers will no longer be able to use their credit cards to place bets online in a major shake-up of industry regulations.

The Gambling Commission has announced that anyone who wants to bet online from 14 April will have to use either a debit card or cash deposited into an account.

The ban on credit cards will affect all gambling, with the exception of the National Lottery, following efforts by the government to tackle problem gambling and protect vulnerable customers.

“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm,” Neil McArthur, the commission’s chief executive, said.

“The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.”

Mr McArthur added that research shows 22 per cent of online gamblers who use credit cards are problem gamblers who suffer harmful consequences from their betting.

However, he acknowledged that the ban would need to be backed by further action to prevent gambling companies from letting customers spend money they do not have.

The decision follows pressure from charity groups, such as Gamble Aware and Citizens Advice, who have called on the government to introduce bans on the use of credit cards over the past two years.

In 2018, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) called on the Gambling Commission to consider restrictions on the use of “borrowed money” for online gambling

Ronnie Cowan, an SNP MP who has spoken out against the gambling industry, welcomed the announcement but said campaigners “must not take our eyes off the prize” and called for a new gambling act to address the issue.

The government recently introduced a crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which saw the maximum stake for bets cut from £100 to £2.

An estimated 24 million adults gamble in the UK, with 10.5 million of those placing bets online.

It is thought that around 800,000 people use credit cards to gamble, with the regulator's own data showing that more than 165,000 customers made £46m-worth of credit card deposits in February last year.

Helen Whately, culture minister for arts, heritage and tourism, has said the government will carry out a review of the 2005 Gambling Act to “ensure it is fit for the digital age”.

“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction,” Ms Whately said in a statement on the credit card ban.

“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. “

Brigid Simmonds, chairwoman of the Betting and Gaming Council which represents the industry, said the council would implement the ban and its members will work to improve “early identification of those at risk” from problem gambling.

Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, also welcomed the decision and said it was “essential that every effort is made to protect” vulnerable customers.

The Gambling Commission is also reportedly considering a clampdown on VIP schemes which can reward gamblers who habitually lose money with perks, such as free bets, cashback on losing wagers or football tickets.

Additional reporting by PA

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