No Workarounds: UK Gambling Commission Tightens Rules on January’s Credit Card Ban
Back in April, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) rolled out its long-mooted credit card ban for online casinos, and such methods were duly removed from all UKGC-licensed sites.
Not many in the media or even the industry had much to say against the ban, which was designed to discourage people from going into debt for gambling.
However, the ban has proven harder to enforce than the Commission might have thought, as consumers have been finding workarounds from day one. That’s despite the initial government report from last July, which highlighted this as a potential problem.
The methods customers have been using include pay-by-phone bills and e-wallets.
The first one allows customers to deposit up to £250 ($316) a month by signing up with their phone number. They then receive a text with however much they want to deposit, and that amount is taken from their monthly phone bill.
This bill can be legally paid for by credit card, thus acting as a loophole for credit card deposits at online casinos.
E-wallets are even easier. Almost all the big providers (PayPal, Neteller, Skrill, etc.) have previously allowed deposits via credit card. Thus, all a customer needs to do is fill up their e-wallet account with a credit card and then use that money to deposit at a casino.
Some of these payment processors have since developed a block specifically for this issue that stops UK players from sending credit card funds to gambling operators.
Others have continued to provide the now-illegal service. As a result, the UKGC felt the need to release this new statement, warning operators of its zero-tolerance policy for such loopholes.
Casino operators have no control over where this money from e-wallets and phone bill payments comes from. The regulator doesn’t either, as these aren’t gambling operators, and they don’t fall under their jurisdiction.
So, what might the UKGC do?
Reject All Payments
For one, the UKGS can order online gambling operators to stop providing payment systems that allow credit card deposits.
In practice, this means providers that gain a lot of commission from the gambling industry will drop credit cards, as is the case of phone billing service Revolut who was singled out in January and then removed the option for UK customers when the ban rolled out.
“Operators will need to reject all payments made through such MSBs that have not developed a ‘block’ to prevent credit card deposits being used for gambling through their e-account or e-wallet facilities,” said the latest UKGC statement.
Regulators might also choose to use their clout with the country’s media outlets to publicly decry payment platforms that continue to allow the workaround. This puts a lot of pressure on them to avoid negative news coverage, so they may comply to avoid the last case resort of expensive legal proceedings.
However, increased media attention on this story might also highlight the one part of this ban that was disputed by operators—the exemption for the National Lottery’s online service.
Keep checking our pages for more information on this story as it develops, plus other legislative news from the gambling world.