Credit ban in gambling should be evidence based

Out-Law News | 22 Oct 2019 | 12:19 pm | 1 min. read

Any move to ban gambling operators from accepting payments made via credit cards should be evidence based, experts in gambling regulation have said.

Audrey Ferrie and Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, were commenting after new legislation was introduced before the UK parliament seeking to prohibit online gambling providers from accepting payment of a fee, charge or stake made using money obtained on credit.

The proposed Bill, which would update the Gambling Act of 2005 if it is enacted, has been put forward by peer Alan Smith, the Lord Bishop of St Albans.

In August, Britain's gambling regulator the Gambling Commission opened a consultation on proposals which could see gambling operators barred or restricted from accepting credit card payments from their customers. It said it is "persuaded that there are risks of harm associated with using credit cards for online gambling and that we need to act to protect consumers". 

Rees-Gay said: "The timing of this Bill is very strange as the Gambling Commission consultation on this specific issue does not close until 6 November 2019. It is, therefore, concerning that legislation is seeking to be enacted prior to there being an evidential basis for it. Should the Bill not pass through parliament, the findings from the regulator's consultation will have been produced and it is likely that any proposed changes would take effect in the Licence Conditions Code of Practice in April 2020."

Ferrie said: "The use of credit cards has been under the microscope for a while but this Bill goes further by proposing a ban on cash machines in licensed premises too – memories of the Gaming Act 1968 for those of us of a certain vintage. Whether or not this latest Bill goes anywhere is another matter."

In a separate report, the children's commissioner for England has called on the UK government to "take immediate action" to amend the Gambling Act 2005 to classify ‘loot boxes’ in video games as gambling, require maximum daily spend limits be introduced in all games which feature in-game spending and turned on by default for children, and mandate the use of features in games that enable players to track their history of spending.

MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee in the UK parliament made a similar recommendation in relation to 'loot boxes' last month.