The UK Gambling Commission and betting brands have been urged to close a loophole that allows punters to use their mobile phones to circumnavigate the credit card ban.
That was brought in back in April 2020 to help alleviate the issues of problem gambling, with people betting money that they didn’t necessarily have.
It was a major victory for campaigners and politicians, who have been lobbying for a long time for an end to credit card betting.
But it took just six weeks for a loophole to emerge: a number of online casino brands – in excess of 50 for UK players alone – offer a ‘pay by phone’ option.
And this allows punters to bend the rules, as many will pay the bill for their monthly mobile phone contract using a pre-determined credit card.
There are limits to this payment method, with maximum spending of £40 per day and up to £240 per month, but this is clearly still a significant amount for individuals exhibiting problematic behaviours.
Campaigners, including those from problem gambling charities such as StepChange and Gambling with Lives, have argued that this this against the ‘spirit’ of the new law, and they have pleaded with the Gambling Commission to outlaw pay-by-phone as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic – Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones – said:
“The whole point of banning credit card use for gambling was to ensure consumer safety in relation to avoiding spending more than one could afford, but this seems to me to be a loophole through which gambling could still occur and cause financial harm.”
The Commission has responded, telling the Money Box programme on the BBC that they are ‘watching very closely’ for any methods designed to get around the ban, and that they are prepared to intervene where required to preserve the integrity of their law change.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which advises brands and operators as to best practice and ethical standards, said that it ‘accepted and welcomed’ the credit card ban.
“All of our members agreed to the guidelines set out by the Gambling Commission, and we will work with the regulator to ensure that they are adhered to.”
A Significant Step
The original credit card ban was brought into play back on April 14 following a lengthy consultation between the government and the Commission.
They recognised a need to regulate the online betting sector, which is worth more than £5 billion per year and of which a significant chunk comes from credit card deposits.
The research findings also concluded that more than 24 million people in Britain are considered ‘gamblers’, and that 22% of that customer base did so with their credit cards.
As Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, concluded at the time:
“The ban that we have announced today 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.”