Confirming the fears of licensed gambling firms operating in the United Kingdom (UK), the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has finally announced the imposition of new regulations banning all credit card gambling both online and offline, with the National Lottery being the only exemption.
The ban comes after mounting public pressure, including lobbying from non-profit groups such as Citizens Advice and Gamble Aware, as well as the watchdog group Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB).
Starting April 14, gamblers in the UK must use a debit card or cash deposits to top up their betting accounts online.
The UK is estimated to have 24 million gamblers, nearly half of which gamble online. According to Neil McArthur, the UKGC’s chief executive, the ban will help problem gamblers avoid unduly harming themselves by ensuring they cannot lose more money than they have.
McArthur noted that credit card gambling is a serious enabler for problem gamblers. Stats show that 22 percent of credit card online gamblers are problem gamblers and this credit card ban will help them be better protected.
Gambling Firms’ Stocks Tumble in Response
The UKGC reported that in February 2019, at least 165,000 gamblers deposited £46 million through credit cards. While McArthur acknowledged that the vast majority of credit card gamblers use their cards for convenience, he stated that this was a lesser concern for the UKGC than the risks problem gamblers faced due to having access to credit cards. Estimates show that there are roughly 800,000 credit card gamblers in the UK.
The credit card ban on the gambling industry does not come as a surprise as gambling operators were aware that the UKGC was pushing for it. However, as soon as the ban was confirmed, stock values of gambling firms took a tumble. Early trading returns indicate that the shares of Flutter—owner of Paddy Power fell 1.4%, GVC Holdings who owns Ladbrokes fell 2.8%, William Hill fell by 3.2% and 888 Holdings fell by 3.3%.
UK’s Ongoing Battle with Problem Gambling
The ban is the latest challenge posed to the UK’s gambling industry as legislators and the UKGC look to curb the rise of gambling addiction in the country. A number of industry observers have expressed support for the ban, though many warn that it is not enough to curb gambling-related harms effectively.
Former sports minister Tracey Crouch and chairwoman of the Betting and Gaming Council affirmed their support for the ban; culture minister Helen Whately and SNP MP Ronnie Cowan noted that the ban must be a step toward a complete overhaul of the Gambling Act, which they said may no longer be relevant to the digital age.