As of April 14, anybody wishing to place a bet will not be allowed to do so using a credit card as their payment method.
The UK Gambling Commission has been given approval by the government to introduce the measure, which has come in the wake of a number of campaigns designed to curb the numbers of problem gamblers.
In their research, the Commission found that 22% of online bettors – of which there is said to be around 10.5 million in the UK alone – who use credit cards are classified as a problem gambler.
The ban will cover all sports bets placed online and on the high street, as well as casino games and any other forms of gambling, although lottery draws that are run specifically for good causes will be exempt from the new regulations.
More than £5 billion is said to be wagered on betting online per year, which is more than in land-based casinos, bingo halls and on the lottery combined.
The UK Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur, said:
“Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today [Tuesday] should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.
“We also know that there are examples of consumers who have accumulated tens of thousands of pounds of debt through gambling because of credit card availability.
“There is also evidence that the fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation, because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent.”
GamStop Campaign Stepped Up
To work in tandem with the credit card ban, further regulations will mean that all operators offering online gambling services will have to participate in the GamStop self-exclusion scheme as of March 31.
The tools offered by GamStop allow individuals who feel that their gambling is getting to a problematic level to lock themselves out of their accounts, either temporarily or permanently.
Many online betting firms are already signed up to the scheme, although the new law will make it a punishable offence not to offer the service to customers come the spring.
The chairwoman of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Brigid Simmons, said that the organisation ‘strongly welcomed’ the news and that of the credit card ban.
“We will implement a ban on credit cards which adds to measures such as age verification, markers of harm and affordability checks, additional funding for research, education and treatment and new codes of conduct to protect the consumer,” she said.
Speaking at a governmental level, the Minister for Culture, Helen Whately, said:
“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, I have also met people whose lives have been turned upside down by gambling addiction.
“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.”
The news was met with an accepting but grim reaction by a number of major bookmaking chains, who recognise the need for action on problem gambling.
At least the share price drop which greeted the credit card ban revelation has already been wiped out, with most prices in the sector already returning to their previous level.