The UK Gambling Commission (“UKGC”) is in the middle of a public consultation related to the use of credit cards for online gambling. It ends 6 November. Depending on responses received, they may decide to ban punters in the UK from being able to use credit cards to fund their online bets.
The consultation follows a review conducted earlier in the year investigating whether and to what extent the use of credit cards contribute to problem gambling risks. That review convinced them that there was a risk associated with credit card use. Enough of a risk to warrant further investigation. Which is where we are now.
The majority of most responses (albeit from a small sample of 110) called for a complete ban on the use of credit cards for online gambling. Something the UKGC seems to be seriously considering.
“We are therefore now consulting specifically on two separate options of either banning or restricting the use of credit cards for all forms of remote gambling”
They’re inviting all and sundry to submit their views, insights, experiences and opinions on the topic. Members of the public, charities, gambling operators, financial institutions and trade associations are all invited to take part in the consultation.
Are there benefits to net gambling credit card use?
The UKGC is convinced there are harms associated to credit card use. They provide instant credit, which is a very dangerous thing for a compulsive gambler.
But before introducing a ban they want a better understanding of the benefits of credit card use. Here is a recognition that they should also take into account the extent to which responsible gamblers (the silent majority in this debate) will be impacted by restrictive measures.
The benefit of course is convenience. If you want to fund your online casino or sports betting account to place a bet when the whim (or event) arises credit cards or linked virtual wallets let you do this immediately. Having to send a cheque or do a bank transfer doesn’t really cut it. Debit cards are an easy solution to this problem, so hopefully they do not get caught up in any restrictions that are introduced.
The question the UKGC will be weighing up in the end: does a minor inconvenience to the majority outweigh significant risk to the minority?
What about virtual wallets?
The UKGC also recognise that to be effective, any restrictions on credit card use will need to extend to the use of virtual wallets (eg PayPal or Skrill) which are popular deposit options, and which let users link payments to a credit card.
At the moment, if you deposit into your online casino account using Skrill, PayPal or the like, the casino doesn’t know whether that money has come from cash held in your virtual wallet, or from a credit card linked to that wallet.
Another level of transparency will be needed here if any restrictions are to be effective. Something online gambling operators, virtual wallets and banks won’t welcome.
What about other forms of credit?
Of course credit cards aren’t the only source of easy credit these days. Personal loans or pay payday lenders could have gamblers punting on credit via cash from their bak accounts anyway. Will a credit card ban simply displace credit betting risk to other avenues?
This is another issue the UKGC are trying to get their heads around.
When would restrictions take effect?
April 2020 is the date given for any restrictions to take effect. We’ll know before then what, if any, those restrictions will be.