Online gambling is big business these days, but not for credit card companies. In April 2020, Great Britain outlawed the use of credit cards as payment for online gambling services, on the heels of leading brand, William Hill, doing the same in Ireland.
Why ban credit cards?
A credit card essentially allows people to spend money which they don’t actually have (hence, the word ‘credit’}. In 2020, the powers that be disallowed the use of credit cards on gambling sites, as it was felt that this would prevent gambling addicts and vulnerable users spiralling into credit card debt in order to feed their addiction. A 2019 survey revealed that 22% of the people who were using credit cards to bet in online casino were classified as problem gamblers. At the time, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, said, ‘Credit card gambling can lead to significant financial harm. The ban that we have announced today should minimize 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’.
In addition to banning credit cards, Culture Minister, Helen Whately, confirmed a number of additional measures including £100 million in funding from five leading gambling operators for treatment for problem gamblers.
Has it worked?
Yes and no. In general, the ban has been considered successful and a November 2021 report showed that there had been:
- No observed spike in credit card ATM withdrawals prior to the ban
- No increase in illegal acquisition of funds
- No significant spike in borrowing
- No significant rise in the use of unlicensed
While all of that is undoubtedly good news, there have been cases of online betting companies ignoring the ban as well as some gamblers turning to other, high-cost ways of funding their gambling, such as payday loans.
Initiatives such as the credit card ban are put in place to help to protect gambling addicts and those who are in danger of becoming addicts. Although the ban will certainly help to reduce the number of problems, addicts are notoriously innovative and, many, will simply find others ways to fund their habits. The gambling itself isn’t a bad thing, addiction is the cause of the problems.