Gaming operators in the United Kingdom will stop processing credit card transactions as of April 2020, a move mandated by the UK Gambling Commission as part of their push for greater social responsibility.
News of the change was announced on Jan. 14, and follows a 12-week consultation. Taking place between August and November 2019, the consultation sought opinions from consumers, gambling organizations, and operators.
Result of a Multi-Year Campaign
UK legislators have been working to ban gambling-related credit-card transactions since 2017 when then deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, said his party would outlaw the practice if elected.
He doubled down in 2018, restating his case that credit cards caused vulnerable consumers to fall into debt. This argument, combined with Labour’s own efforts to raise standards, prompted the UK Gambling Commission to crunch some numbers.
After reviewing data from UK Finance, the regulatory body found that 800,000 UK gamblers used credit cards in 2018. Conducting further research, it discovered that 22 percent of online consumers use credit cards.
Based on the stats and a desire to protect the vulnerable, the public consultation went live in August 2019. After analyzing responses, the UKGC concluded that credit card payments to gaming companies will be prohibited as of April 14, 2020.
“The ban is part of our ongoing work to reduce gambling harm. We also need to continue the work we have been doing with gambling operators and the finance industry to ensure consumers only gamble with money they can afford to spend,” Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said on Jan. 14.
In a press release, regulators said the ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products, including poker. The only exception will be non-remote lotteries, as blocking credit card payments would prove too much of a burden for retailers.
Alternative Payment Options?
At least one leading operator in the UK supports the ban. A spokesperson for The Stars Group told CardsChat that the company is “committed to safer gambling,” and to giving players as many responsible gaming tools as possible.
The spokesperson also confirmed that provisions would be in place to help ease customers through the transition, and maintain normal service.
“Credit card customers who wish to continue to use our products are able to move to alternative payment methods in as seamless a way as possible,” read the Stars Group statement.
Although operators won’t be able to accept credit card deposits after April 14, it doesn’t mean that players won’t be able to fund their accounts using other methods, including services such as PayPal and Neteller.
By using eWallets and cryptocurrencies as intermediaries, players could still fund their gaming activities using a credit card. However, UK Culture Minister Helen Whatley has said that all businesses with a “connection to gambling” must protect consumers. Moreover, they will need to provide effective money management tools, particularly when gambling is involved.