This week, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission announced a total ban on credit cards at UK-licensed casinos. The change will come into force in April 2020.
Everyone in the industry expected changes in the British market this year, as we’ve outlined a few times over the past months.
However, these new regulations have been coming thick and fast. Just over two weeks into 2020, the UKGC has already announced funding changes for its gambling awareness services and now this credit card ban as well.
Due to come into effect in a few short months, the decision was widely rumored to have been confirmed internally at the UKGC back in November—after the publication of a comprehensive review conducted by earlier in the year.
Minimize the Risks of Harm
“The ban that we have announced today should minimize the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have,” said UKGC Executive Director Neil McArthur.
It’s hard to argue with his point, and casino owners have seen this coming down the pipeline for a while. However, it might still be a surprise to the estimated 800,000 people in the UK who used a credit card to gamble last year.
Out of those, 22% are considered to be problem gamblers—much higher than the same ratio taken from the UK’s overall population of 10.5 million online players.
Mr. McArthur cited interest and late payment charges as part of the driver for increased rates of problem gambling amongst players using credit cards.
“The fees charged by credit cards can exacerbate the situation because the consumer can try to chase losses to a greater extent,” the UKGC’s statement said.
National Lottery Excluded
The ban will apply to all gambling products. This will include UKGC licensed online casinos, as well as all physical betting shops and casinos on UK shores.
The one exception is “lotteries that provide funds for good causes,” thus covering the National Lottery.
This long-running service is the third most popular form of gambling for UK players. Its £3 billion ($3.9 billion) revenue figure in 2018/19 put it behind online and betting shops but ahead of land-based casinos and bingo, based on total income.
Lottery tickets and scratchcards from the national provider will still be allowed for purchase by credit card, but only if included in a wider shop. The UKGC has left this up to retailers to police, although it also noted that lottery players have the lowest problem gambling rates of all gamblers in the UK.
Credit Cards Already a Marker
The credit card ban will certainly affect casinos, but it may not be too hard to implement for many operators.
Brigid Simmons, head of the Betting and Gaming Council, suggested that many of their member operators were already well aware of the unhealthy risks taken by some credit card gamblers.
“We will implement a ban on credit cards, and indeed, our members will go further to study and improve the early identification of those at risk. The use of credit cards has been previously used as a potential marker of harm, which might lead to further intervention with customers,” she said in a statement regarding the new law.
The Betting and Gaming Council counts up to 90% of UK gambling operators of all forms amongst its members. They collectively employ nearly 100,000 people and contribute an average of £14 billion per year to the isles’ economy.
At the end of the day, this legislation might hurt some of their members’ bottom.
However, the financial impact won’t be much compared to the risk of losing public opinion over what are very regrettable cases of problem gambling with credit cards. Most of the key players in the industry are certainly aware of this.
If you’re interested in UK regulatory news like this, as well as changes further abroad, keep checking these pages for more updates.