The United Kingdom Gambling Commission seems to have fallen in line with various gambling campaigners recently, as the regulatory body recently published a statement saying that a ban on credit card use for online gambling is to be brought into effect.
Following a multitude of people, including various MPs, requesting that credit cards be banned for this due to their inability to provide stable gambling, the UK’s gambling watchdog has taken clear notice. The ban is expected to come into place as of Tuesday, April 14th 2020.
It was reported this past weekend by various media outlets, including The Observer, that the UK Gambling Commission was in the process of recommending the banning of credit cards. Yet, as of Tuesday, January 14, the Commission went full steam ahead and announced the complete ban of them. Charity groups like GambleAware and Citizens Advice have been urging the regulatory body to do something about credit card use for the past two years. Now, it seems as though people are actually listening.
This brings on quite the change for the scene, as the vast majority of online betting platforms, including top brands like Betfair, Bet365, 888 Casino and more, allow their customers to use credit cards freely for deposits. This has led to warnings over the increase in gambling addiction, though. Evidence suggests that players have gone on to deposit more than they can afford via credit cards, which has led to them falling into debt at the same time.
800,000 Players Will Need to Gamble in Another Way
Around 24 million adults in the UK participate in some form of gambling, with 10.5 million of those choosing to gamble online. Official data from UK Finance suggests that about 800,000 users in the United Kingdom used a UK-issued credit card for gambling in 2018. Meanwhile, separate research that was undertaken by the Gambling Commission revealed that 22% of those players using credit cards for gambling are considered to be problem gamblers. Even more of them could be considered at risk of harm.
It was in March of 2018 that the Commission carried out its own review of the country’s gambling industry, which revealed various figures relating to how gambling participation has increased in the UK. Not only that, but it also displayed startling numbers of people who have been considered as gambling addicts, while a rise in the number of minors involving themselves in gambling of one kind or another has also increased.
With the introduction of the ban in April, this means that those 800,000 players will need to find an alternative method of playing their favourite casino games. Most online platforms do provide additional payment methods for their customers to make use of for depositing and withdrawing already. Yet, the credit card ban will also affect offline operations as well as those online, meaning that land-based establishments also won’t be able to accept such transactions.
eWallets and Cash Voucher Loopholes
As it stands now following the consultation the UKGC has stated that credit cards will also not be allowed to be used through payment gateways and eWallets such as, Skrill, Neteller and PayPal. This has actually been used in the past to get around payment limits allowing people to gamble more than they would be able to directly on a credit card.
How this will be enforced is as yet unknown but it will likely put the onus on the payment services providers to prevent any funding of gambling sites, as the casino or bookie doesn’t necessarily know where the funds come from originally through an eWallet.
One aspect that is yet to be covered is how voucher systems such as PaySafeCard will work with the ban. Currently you can buy a PaySafeCard in shops with the PayPoint symbol using cash or cards, including credit cards, and then use these vouchers to upload funds to betting sites. Quite how this will be stopped is unknown.
The Result of the Ban
A survey conducted by the Commission in October of 2019 on credit card use for gambling purposes also discovered that if it was no longer possible to gamble with a card, most people would either utilise their own funds, such as through a debit card, or not gamble at all. That same survey discovered that those who use credit cards to gamble at online casinos, and who also have a low gambling literacy score, tend to take part in a higher number of gambling activities.
While sports betting was the largest sector that saw activity, slots and casino games online weren’t far behind. Yet, while the introduction of the credit card ban will likely mean that an initial dip in those participating in gambling will take place, the greatest advantage of this is that there’s likely to be less customers being considered as problem gamblers. It will simply mean that those who wish to continue participating in it will have to find an alternative way of depositing that works for them.
With the ban coming into effect in three-months, this gives both operators and players the chance to prepare for the changes and act accordingly. Credit cards have long been a staple option for players to utilise for depositing money into their accounts at online casinos. However, other forms of payment, including debit cards, e-wallets, prepaid cards and such will still be available to use at the sites.
In addition to the ban on credit card use at online casinos, all operators will be required by law to become a part of the GAMSTOP scheme. This is a multi-operator self-exclusion program, which allows players to self-exclude from online operators and their platforms via a single request, rather than multiple separate ones. The UK currently hosts over 200 online operators, meaning that players will be able to gain access to self-exclusion options on a much easier basis this way.
What Will Be Next?
The parliamentary group that recommended the credit card ban have also recommended that VIP programs be restricted and that the maximum stake for online games should be dropped to £2, in line with the rules on fixed odds betting terminals in shops.
This will likely only be the start of changes over the next 24 months. Renewing gambling legislation was a key factor in all parties election manifestos for the December 2019 general election and part of this will be revoking the 2005 Gambling Act and renewing it with a new Act more suited to the online betting era.
Customers have already faced changed over the last year that include an increase in the point of consumption tax on betting companies to 21% (which is ultimately passed down to the customer) and increased verification checks that now require you to prove your age and address before you can deposit and bet.
The difficulty for the government will be producing laws and guidelines that make the industry safer whilst not disrupting it so much that players start to bet with foreign unlicensed operators to get better value and services.