Racing at Kelso – a great day out, but be careful. Pictures by Bill Heaney
By Guardian staff and agencies
Gambling businesses are to be banned from allowing consumers to use credit cards to bet from 14 April, the Gambling Commission has announced.
The move comes two years after charity groups including GambleAware and Citizens Advice urged the government to implement the policy to protect people from sliding into addiction.
Major betting websites including PokerStars, Betfair, 888 and Bet365 all allow their customers to make deposits online using credit cards, which has led to warnings from campaigners that gamblers risk racking up huge debts.
Last year, the Guardian reported on the case of a problem gambler who used nine credit cards to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds with online casinos, who she claimed ignored her obvious signs of a spiralling addiction. Her losses included £54,000 in an overnight spree when she was allowed to place bets worth more than £380,000 on one website in a single session.
Neil McArthur, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, said: “Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.”
The consultation that led to the commission’s decision included e-wallets, indicating that payment services such as PayPal will probably be included in the ban. The Guardian revealed last year that such providers had allowed problem gamblers to circumvent banking limits and spend up to £150,000 a day.
The culture minister, Helen Whately, said: “There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.
“In the past year we have introduced a wave of tougher measures, including cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, bringing in tighter age and identity checks for online gambling and expanding national specialist support through the NHS Long Term Plan.
“We have also secured a series of commitments from five leading gambling operators that will include £100m funding towards treatment for problem gamblers.
“But there is more to do. We will be carrying out a review of the Gambling Act to ensure it is fit for the digital age and we will be launching a new nationwide addiction strategy in 2020.”
SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, who has spoken out about the gambling industry, said: “This is welcomed but we mustn’t take our eyes off the prize and that’s a completely new Gambling Act.”
Brigid Simmonds, head of the Betting and Gaming Council which represents the industry, said: “We will implement a ban on credit cards and indeed our members will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk.
“The use of credit cards were previously used as a potential marker of harm which might lead to further intervention with customers.”