Regulator bans punters from using credit cards for online gambling
Punters will no longer be able to use their credit cards to place bets online after a major shake-up of rules announced by the industry regulator.
From April 14, people wanting to place bets online will have to do so by using either a debit card or through cash deposited into an account.
The credit card ban affects all gambling, with the exception of the National Lottery, the Gambling Commission said.
It follows concerted efforts by the Government to address the issue of problem gambling.
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.”
Mr McArthur said the ban needed to be backed by other action, while SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, who has spoken out about the gambling industry, added: “This is welcomed but we mustn’t take our eyes off the prize and that’s a completely new gambling act.”
The Government has come under pressure to introduce bans for the use of credit cards for online bets over the past two years by charity groups including Gamble Aware and Citizens Advice.
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.
Early in 2019, the watchdog launched a call for evidence on the matter “to explore the consequences of restricting or prohibiting the use of credit cards in gambling”.
An estimated 24 million adults gamble in Great Britain, 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 £46 million worth of credit card deposits in February last year.
The announcement is the latest blow to gambling businesses, after the Government introduced a crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which saw the maximum stake for bets cut from £100 to £2.
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.
“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.”
The announcement comes amid a period of increased scrutiny on the gambling sector, which has seen criticism in recent weeks over its close relationship with professional sport.
Last week, government ministers were told that the Football Association will not renew a controversial deal allowing gambling websites to screen live football matches.
The sport’s governing body faced pressure over its deal with Bet365 which allows people to watch live matches if they create accounts with the gambling firm.
The Gambling Commission is also reportedly considering whether to clamp down on VIP schemes which can reward gamblers who habitually lose money with perks such as free bets, cashback on losing wagers or football tickets.