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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

GambleAware Calls On Banks To Improve Gambling Payment Blockers

Credit Card Gambling Ban

Leading UK gambling charity GambleAware has called on banks to improve the way their gambling card payment blockers work.

Over the past few years, more and more banks have begun to launch payment blocking services that customers can enable which will automatically block any payments made to gambling websites. However, a new study published by GambleAware in partnership with researchers at the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) has uncovered that around 40% of current accounts in the UK are not given the option of using the service.

According to GambleAware, around 28 million personal current accounts do not have access to the service and only eight financial firms offer these blockers on select products and services. The firms include Monzo, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Santander, Cashplus, Starling, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The research states that four firms that do not offer customers gambling blockers include Nationwide Building Society, Dankse Bank, the First Trust Bank, and the Bank Of Ireland.

What’s more, researchers from Bristol’s PFRC found that most of the blockers failed as they can be turned on and off instantly rather than acting as a permanent lock or offering time delays such as turning off two to three days after requesting it. What’s more, the study also found that some of the blockers do not sufficiently block payments as promised.  The study also found that gamblers were finding workarounds to the blockers by withdrawing cash or utilising e-Wallets such as Skrill, Neteller, and even PayPal.

Gambling Blocker Recommendations

As a result of the findings, which can be found here, the researchers from Bristol’s PFRC and GambleAware have issued five key recommendations the firms want banks to take to improve their gambling payment blocking services. These commendations include:

  • Requiring firms and regulators to work with experts to design products and services to help those affected by gambling-related harm
  • Requiring UK financial groups to include the report’s recommendations into their member guidance and policy regarding the support of vulnerable customers
  • Requiring the Financial Conduct Authority to explain to its vulnerable customers that gambling payment blockers are standard on debit cards
  • The launch of a new cross-sector awareness campaign that promotes gambling payment blockers and other forms of gambling exclusion to customers
  • The inclusion of new rules and regulatory conditions from the UK government to encourage financial firms to develop various tools and services to better protect customers

GambleAware and Bristol’s PFRC hope that the recommendations are considered by gambling regulators, financial groups and the UK government and that they will help protect gamblers all over the UK.

The study’s researchers have also called for financial firms to ensure that their gambling payment blockers are built with a time-release lock of either 48 or 72 hours. The researchers also want banks to make blockers a standard feature, to make it easier for customers to limit cash withdrawals, and to block payments via credit cards even though these payments are already prohibited at online casinos in the UK.

What They Say

Professor Sharon Collard, the Research Director of the PFRC at the University of Bristol, said in a statement: “Our research has found bank card gambling blockers are not available on roughly 40% of personal current accounts. This means an estimated 28 million people are missing out on this crucial tool to block gambling expenditure which helps protect them from gambling harms. We are calling on the Financial Conduct Authority to urgently recommend that gambling blocks are standard on all debit and credit cards.

“We examined the effectiveness of all existing blockers and found that serious changes are required. The people affected by gambling harms who took part in the review stated that the more positive friction that can be built into a bank blocker, the more effective it can be.”

She continued: “It is vital, therefore, that the blockers cannot just be turned on and off, as the benefits of the technology become redundant. Instead, we recommend all financial service firms require consumers to wait at least two days between requesting to turn the blocker off, and the blocker technology stopping.”

Marc Etches, the Chief Executive at GambleAware, also commented on the findings and said: “Keeping people safe from gambling harms requires banks to play their full part in providing consumers with effective means to block gambling transactions. While some banks have taken proactive steps to help shield their customers from gambling harms, the findings of this research indicate that improvements can and should be made. We encourage the banking industry to work together alongside the Government and regulators to implement the proposed recommendations.”

Recent UK Regulation Changes

The report comes several months after the UK Gambling Commission introduced in April a nation-wide ban on the use of credit cards at online casinos and real-life gambling venues. Although the ban covers most aspects of gambling, credit cards can still be used for lotteries.

As we reported back in April, the ban was introduced after a 12-week consultation period and the Gambling Commission hopes that the restriction will help reduce the number of people facing gambling-related problems as previous research from the Commission found that around 22% of online gamblers who used credit cards were classed as problem gamblers.

Also in April, the UK Gambling Commission introduced new rules changes which affected VIP schemes at online casinos. Under the new regulations, people under the age of 25 can no longer be added to VIP schemes or loyalty programmes. What’s more, the new rules require operators to conduct mandatory affordability checks before they can be added to such schemes.

Meanwhile, the Commission has been looking at introducing additional rule changes to better protect gamblers. Some of them include a decrease in the speed of video slot spins, the removal of Turbo mechanics that speed up slot spins, and the removal of split-screen features.

It’s unclear if these rule changes will ever be implemented but the UK Gambling Commission is looking into them with the hope that they, along with all previous regulations, will help reduce the number of people affected by gambling-related harm.

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