The Gambling Commission has today announced a ban on gambling operators from accepting credit cards as a means of payment by consumers, and also that the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP must be participated in by all its licensees from March.

Ban on credit cards

The ban will come into effect on 14 April 2020 via an update to the Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP). It applies to all forms of remote gambling and non-remote betting, with the regulatory framework already preventing non-remote casino, bingo adult gaming centre and family entertainment centre operators from accepting payments by credit card. The ban does not apply to non-remote lottery participation, given the problems this would cause from a practical perspective, with scratch cards and lottery tickets often purchased as part of an order for other non-gambling products.

The announcement of the ban will come as no surprise to those in the industry, having been on the regulatory agenda for some time now. In its ‘review of online gambling’ published in March 2018, the Commission stated that it would consider prohibiting or restricting the use of such a payment method and subsequently ran a consultation between August and November 2019, publishing its response to this as part of the announcement today.

In its response to the consultation, the Commission stated that its research indicated that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are classed as ‘problem gamblers’. The Commission acknowledged that the ban would not address the underlying causes of such harm, but stated that they “expect [the ban] to be a measure that will reduce the risks of harm to many consumers by preventing them from gambling more than they can afford to repay; or at the very least, it will add levels of friction to the process of gambling with borrowed money such that the rate of financial loss is slowed down and harm is potentially curtailed”.

The ban also applies to payments via e-wallets, meaning that operators have an obligation to ensure that e-wallet providers prevent payment for gambling by credit card.

As part of the consultation, the Commission also explored the option of introducing limits to the use of credit cards, as opposed to banning them outright. The ban was favoured on the basis that any limit would likely have less impact on gambling-related harm and concerns raised by respondents to the consultation regarding difficulties in implementing any limits and the ability of consumers to circumvent such limits.

GAMSTOP participation becomes mandatory

The Commission has also announced that all online operators will be required to participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP by 31 March 2020, finally bringing to a close the long-drawn out implementation of the scheme.

To date the majority of Commission-licensed operators have participated in the scheme, however with all operators now being required to participate, the scheme will allow consumers to self-exclude across all licensed operators in a single step. The scheme forms part of the Commissions efforts to further enhance consumers’ options to manage their gambling, with Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Commission, stating:

We welcome the fact that GAMSTOP have got to this stage in their development and encourage them to continue to improve their offer, particularly in relation to preventing those who have self-excluded being targeted by direct marketing. It is important that self-exclusion schemes are as effective as possible and they will be most effective when used in combination with other blocking tools such as gambling blocking software and payment card blocking.