The Gambling Commission has announced new measures to better safeguard customers. Here is a look at what the new ban means:
– What is the development?
The Gambling Commission has announced that from April 14 gambling companies would no longer be able to accept credit card payments from punters wishing to place a bet. The regulator said the aim was to “minimise the risks of harm to consumers”, citing research that showed 22% of online gamblers who use credit cards are problem gamblers.
– Why is this significant?
Campaigners – including charities, recovering gambling addicts and their families – have long called on new regulations making it more difficult for people to bet money they do not have. The Government has already reduced the maximum stake that can be placed on fixed odds betting terminals following repeated calls for action.
– So, campaigners are chuffed?
They’re happy that action is being taken, but they say it is just the first step. Robin Pollard, policy researcher at drug, alcohol and mental health charity Addaction, proposed a new levy on the industry to help fund safeguarding and support services, while Dr Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans, said “fundamental reform” was needed. Anna Hemmings, chief executive at advice and support charity GamCare, said many of its service users reported that the ability to gamble with a credit card “exacerbated their issues with gambling, as this gave them access to additional funds that they could not afford to pay back”, so removing that avenue for gambling was a welcome move.
– Are the bookmakers a bit miffed then?
While this may have an impact on their finances, bookmakers say they are committed to safeguarding. Brigid Simmonds, chairwoman of the Betting and Gaming Council which represents the industry, said its members are “firmly committed to raising standards, safer gambling and change”. She said gambling companies “will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk”.
– Ah, it’s a rare win-win scenario for both bookmakers and punters then?
Not quite. The announcement was made around an hour before the markets opened. By 8am, online specialist 888 saw shares slide 3.3%, William Hill shares fell 3.2%, Ladbrokes owner GVC Holdings dropped 2.8% and Paddy Power owner Flutter sank 1.4% in early trading after the credit card ban was announced.
– What about scratchcards bought in shops – will they be covered by the credit card ban?
No. The ban will not extend to offline lotteries ie where payment is made face-to-face. The Gambling Commission said it acknowledges that lottery tickets and scratchcards can be bought in shops along with non-gambling products, saying it would be disproportionate to expect non-gambling retail premises to prevent credit card payments for lottery tickets while accepting credit cards for groceries. Existing legislation already prevents high street casino, bingo and arcade operators from accepting payment by credit card.
– So what will happen to gambling companies who fail to comply with this new ban?
The regulator said the ban would form part of firms’ licence conditions, meaning that any breach could be met with a warning, suspension or revocation of that permit, or an unlimited fine. However, consideration would be given to any negligence by the company before any penalty was meted out.