Regulator confirms credit card ban for gambling

Out-Law News | 14 Jan 2020 | 12:07 pm | 2 min. read

Gambling operators licensed in Britain will be prohibited from accepting payment for gambling by credit card from 14 April, the industry regulator has confirmed.

The Gambling Commission had consulted on imposing the ban last year. It has now decided to implement the measure, rejecting concerns from remote gambling operators that customers experiencing harm will simply obtain credit from other sources to fund their gambling, and that the companies will "lose visibility of credit cards as a key risk indicator/marker of potential harm among their customer base".

The Gambling Commission said: "We will proceed with a ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling. We stated in the consultation that we were persuaded there are risks of harm associated with using credit cards for gambling, and the consultation therefore explored what action should be taken to protect consumers and minimise those risks, rather than whether any action should be taken. We have concluded that gambling with credit cards is not reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives of the Gambling Act, and the consultation produced no compelling evidence to dissuade us from intervention." 

Some gambling operators are already prohibited from accepting payments by credit card, including non-remote casinos and bingo operators. The new measure extends the ban to almost all other operators, with a limited exception applying to credit card payments made during the face-to-face sale of lottery tickets.

Gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said the Gambling Commission's decision to proceed with a ban was not a surprise.

"For those that follow the Gambling Commission consultations, the fact that credit cards are being banned as a means of payment will not come as a shock at all," Rees-Gay said. "It will be interesting to see if this has the desired effect, or whether customers will use work around such as increasing their overdraft facilities."

In its response to the feedback received to its earlier consultation, the Gambling Commission regulator highlighted the results of a survey it carried out which it said showed that 22% of people who use credit cards to gamble can be classed as "problem gamblers". Banking trade body UK Finance has estimated that around 800,000 consumers use credit cards to gamble.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: "We realise that this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly but we are satisfied that reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken. But we will evaluate the ban and watch closely for any unintended circumstances for consumers."

The regulator has also announced new licensing obligations will also take effect from 31 March this year requiring all online gambling operators to participate in the 'GAMSTOP' scheme, which enables consumers to self-exclude from gambling online with multiple operators through a single request.

Culture minister Helen Whately said that the UK government plans to carry out a review of the Gambling Act "to ensure it is fit for the digital age". She also outlined plans to publish a new nationwide addiction strategy later this year.

Whately said: "We will not hesitate to take any further action necessary to protect people from gambling harm."